After a year of bad news stories around antisemitism, it's heartening to report that Jews are happy to be big on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, celebrating meeting points – and differences – and gleefully sending themselves up. This…
The City ★★★★ – Israel's Incubator Theatre makes its Edinburgh debut at Shalom - just three years after protests prevented it from being part of the Festival Fringe
One highlight of the International Shalom Festival is the return to Edinburgh of Jerusalem's Incubator Theatre with their hip-hop opera The City, a clever homage to all those private dicks who walk the mean streets of the city trying to solve crime. The City is entirely written in rhyme, combining rap, hip-hop and spoken word to tell a tale of vanity, lust and murder. This is the company targeted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators in 2014, which meant they were unable to perform at the Fringe. So it's all the more exciting and gratifying that they are at last making their proper Edinburgh debut. When JR's Arts Editor Judi Herman saw The City at JW3, London, where it played three sold-out performances in the aftermath of the Edinburgh protests, she was inspired to write the following four-star review in rhyme.
I’m telling you, friends, get down to The City,
A fast-moving show that’s mighty witty.
Israelis rap in English rhyme,
A dark twisted story of a web of crime.
A private dick, just an ordinary Joe,
Meets a mystery blonde and goes with the flow.
If you can get a ticket, you will too,
It’s a sparky performance from a versatile crew.
A band and beatbox, shared imagination,
The City never gets lost in translation…
The City runs Tuesday 8 – Thursday 10 August. 11.30am, 4pm, 8pm (Tue & Wed only). £12.50, £9.50 concs, £8 NUS. Drummond Community High School, Edinburgh, EH7 4BS. www.edfringe.com
Disturbing the Peace ★★★★ – Searing testimony from fighters for co-existence in Israel/Palestine
Some fine thought-provoking feature and documentary films are part of the entertainment and dialogue at the Shalom Festival, with filmmakers and activists involved in that discussion between Israelis and Palestinians taking part in post-show discussions and Q&As.
One in particular is the documentary Disturbing the Peace, from directors Stephen Apkon and Andrew Young. The film follows an activist group called Combatants for Peace and tells the story of these former enemies – Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters, many of whom served years in prison – who have decided to join forces in order to work towards a peaceful resolution and to stand up for what they believe in. The two screenings of Disturbing the Peace will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session.
Disturbing the Peace runs Wednesday 9 & Thursday 10 August. 3.30pm (Wed), 1.30pm (Thu). Free. Drummond Community High School, Edinburgh, EH7 4BS. www.shalomfestival.org
Judi Herman saw Disturbing the Peace at the 2016 UK Jewish Film Festival and you can read her four-star review below:
So your late grandfather assumes the role of a fairly benign dybbuk (malevolent spirit) and enters the bodies of a variety of unsuspecting hosts, mostly Israeli (as we are mostly in Tel Aviv), to gee you up to right what he perceives as a historical wrong perpetrated during the 1940s in post-war Eastern Europe. It’s not quite on the same scale of the vengeance that, say, Hamlet’s father demands. All Grandfather’s co-survivor and landsman (person from the same village) has done is slope off when the pair are apprehended for trying to sell smuggled sugar on the black market, leaving Grandfather to face the music and two months in a Russian labour camp. But Grandfather is rankled in death, as in life, and now he’s spotted a chance to set the record straight, for the cowardly landsman's historian of a grandson, Yoad Riva, is writing a book about his grandfather.
This is the clever, quirky premise of Gur Koren’s moving, funny chamber piece, which opens a window onto the past, to remind us that it is always with us, particularly in the case of second and third generation Holocaust survivors, and especially for Israelis.
This is a lovely intimate piece of writing, with a hero who engages one-to-one with his audience (it’s a mockumentary, so we're cast as a TV or film audience) that gets the production it deserves by director Ariella Eshed.
The cast of four work wonderfully together and tackle the different roles that most of them get to play with relish. Tom Slatter’s Gur Koren is indeed engaging and sympathetic and gets a lot of fun out of the surreal situation of talking to people who are being ‘occupied’ by grandfather’s ghost – and explaining to them that when he addresses what is apparently the air (shades of Hamlet again) he is actually doing a monologue to camera. Spencer Cowan’s Yoad Riva is both funny and appealing, trying to trade sexual favours for that mention in the book, and Shia Forester and Micah Banai have the intriguing job of playing everything from 'bored prostitute' to 'well-read taxi driver' and 'Dostoyevsky aficionado', most of them morphing into bodies possessed by grandfather so he can engage with grandson Gur (so playing a personality within a personality – most of them expansive).
This tale has a real feel of the magic realism of Isaac Singer. When I saw the show, it was taken to the collective heart of its hugely enthusiastic and eclectic audience, who guffawed and cheered appreciatively in this tiny (hot and sweaty) fringe theatre. Eshed’s Tik-Sho-Ret Theatre (the name means communication in Hebrew) aims to give a platform to Israeli and Jewish theatre in the UK and encourage collaborations through cultural and artistic exchange and to promote communication and co-existence. Perhaps this is the production that will achieve all that in its forthcoming run in Edinburgh, after the debacle of last year’s beleaguered shows from Israel. Unsurprisingly the Israeli version has been running since 2009.
By Judi Herman
Hear Ariella Eshed and cast members talking to Judi post-performance at London's Etcetera Theatre:
5 Kilo Sugar runs Friday 7 – Saturday 15 August. 10.25pm. £7-£9. theSpace on the Mile, Edinburgh EH1 1TH. http://tik-sho-ret.co.uk