I saw the original production of Harold Pinter’s dark, multi-award-winning comedy as a precocious, theatre-mad teenager. I wouldn’t have been allowed near it if it had been a film, it would have been x-rated in those days for sure! The homecoming of the title is the return to the flinty bosom of his East End family of Teddy, a college lecturer Stateside with a murky past in this all-male household ruled over by retired butcher Max. Teddy brings home the, er, “bacon” in the alluring shape of Ruth, his wife of five years. The power play between the brothers, their father and above all between Ruth and her in-laws is the meat of the play. I particularly remember Ian Holm, sinister and dangerous as Lenny the pimp; and Vivien Merchant, Pinter’s first wife, who created the role of Ruth, and the way she crossed her legs causing shock waves to ripple through the theatre – and I don’t mean because of the static in her nylons…
The tale of crafty Shmulik – who sees his way round the rabbinate law of shmita that decrees land be left fallow every seven years – is timely for this is that seventh year. Shmulik’s solution to sell his land temporarily to Changrong, his senior Thai worker, with the idea of buying it back when the year is up, inevitably goes spectacularly wrong. And I do mean spectacularly! To reveal more would be a shame, but director Tal Greenberg’s abrasively funny film may well remain a unique opportunity to marvel at a Thai temple sprouting in an Israeli field like Jack’s beanstalk. Greenberg’s cinematography is gorgeous, colouring a vivid landscape, the Spaghetti Western score is spot on for a comic confrontation on the land and the actors are wonderfully matched. It’s great to see the significant community of Thai workers in Israel given space too. Greenberg is definitely one to watch.
By Judi Herman
Kapunka is screened with What’s in a Name in London on the following dates:
Wednesday 11 November
6.30pm, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 96 Finchley Rd, NW3 5EL; 033 3006 7777.
6.45pm, JW3, 341-351 Finchley Rd, NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8988 (as part of an evening of comic shorts).
8.30pm, Odeon South Woodford, 60-64 High Rd, E18 2QL; 087 1224 4007.
Saturday 14 November
6.45pm, JW3, 341-351 Finchley Rd, NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8988.
Find further info at www.ukjewishfilm.org
Could Pinksi be the Jewish Gogol? His story certainly follows in the great tradition of The Government Inspector. It makes you wonder if he could possibly know the writings of that 16th-century sceptic Ben Jonson, whose citizen comedies Volpone and The Alchemist also depend on wily antiheroes pulling the wool over the eyes of a succession of greedy, gullible types for whom you have no sympathy at all.
The 500th anniversary of the Venice Ghetto might take place in 2016, but I feel as if I’ve already spent some time with its embattled Jewish community, at least as seen through Shakespeare’s eyes, as I watch The Merchant of Venice for the fourth time this year.
I guess this might be in contrast to the excited, noisily appreciative, mostly young audience at the National Youth Theatre’s sparky and sparklingly funny production. Even if they are studying the play at school, this might be the first time they’ve seen it, so it’s good to be able to report how much they enjoyed a comic treat. The play is after all dubbed a comedy, even though it also presents huge problems and not just for the Jews in the audience.
Vienna’s famous boulevard, the Ringstrasse, was a thriving hub for Jewish bourgeoisie in 19th century Austria. David Herman reviews Ringstrasse: A Jewish Boulevard which accompanies an exhibition on the street at Vienna’s Jewish Museum.
Fin-de-siècle Vienna has become a source of fascination for cultural historians over the past forty years. There are several reasons. It was one of the birthplaces of 20th century art and ideas: writers such as Schnitzler and Hofmannstahl, painters such as Klimt and Kokoschka, great figures of Modernism from Freud to Schoenberg. “In almost every field of human thought and activity,” writes Ray Monk in his biography of Wittgenstein, “the new was emerging from the old, the twentieth century from the nineteenth.”
On a day when the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported has risen again – and has, as usual, risen to the top of the news – it’s heartening to report on an evening that made an auditorium full of people of different backgrounds and ages laugh a lot together, as a bunch of talented Muslims and Jews mercilessly sent up both with great and good humour.
Director Gregory Doran is in no doubt that Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is the greatest American play of the 20th Century, addressing not only the heartbreaking conflicts within a family, but also bigger issues of national values and uncritical acceptance of the American Dream.
To make a nuclear bomb, you assemble enriched uranium into a supercritical mass that starts an exponentially growing chain reaction. Tom Morton-Smith’s play assembles the team building the first nuclear bomb and shows the chain reaction that ensues amongst them. And just as a bomb needs a trigger, the “Manhattan Project” needed J Robert Oppenheimer.
Daphna is angry. She’s back from her Ivy League college and is storming petulantly around a claustrophobically small studio apartment like a disgruntled toddler. Her cousin Jonah (Joe Coen) tries relentlessly to ignore the young tyrant as she moans about the fact that Jonah’s brother Liam (Ilan Goodman) has missed their Poppy’s (grandpa) funeral because he was skiing in Aspen with his girlfriend, who isn’t even Jewish. This opening scene sets the audience up perfectly for what’s to come – an hour and a half of increasingly un-passive aggression that’s full of belly laughs.
There’s usually a good reason why largely forgotten material from the oeuvre of a master such as Jerry Herman remains forgotten. The Grand Tour had the shortest run of all Herman’s shows and has not even achieved some form of cult status among the cognoscenti, despite US actor Joel Grey starring as the original Jackobowsky.