In conversation: Howard Jacobson

What's it like to fall in love in your 90s? The award-winning author talks about the nonagenarian lovers in his latest novel


From his loft high over Soho, Man Booker Prize-winning author Howard Jacobson speaks to JR's Arts Editor Judi Herman about his latest novel, Live A Little, which chronicles the joys – and humiliations – of romance in old age. He also reads an extract from the book, as well as discussing his despair at the cynical antics of our prime minister. And don't even mention "will of the people"…

Photo by Rob Greig

Live a Little by Howard Jacobson is out now, published by Jonathan Cape, £19.99. www.penguin.co.uk

An abridged version of this interview also features in the Oct 2019 issue of JR.

In conversation: Isaac Gryn

The Oklahoma! musical star talks legends, legacies and lassoing

© Johan Persson

© Johan Persson

Fresh out of drama school, actor Isaac Gryn (pictured centre) is currently starring in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first hit musical Oklahoma! in the all-singing all-dancing role of Will Parker, rodeo lassoing champ and ardent suitor of flirty Ado Annie, the ‘Girl Who Can’t Say No’. As you might guess from his surname, Isaac is the grandson of the late, great Rabbi Hugo Gryn, Holocaust survivor and for decades the go-to media rabbi, with regular appearances on BBC Radio and deservedly much loved by folk of all faiths and none. Gryn has clearly inherited his grandfather’s warmth and charisma. It comes over in his terrific high energy performance, though whether Rabbi Gryn counted lassoing among his skills remains a secret. Here Gryn speaks to JR’s Arts Editor Judi Herman about the show, its creators and learning to lasso, as well as his faith, family and the legacy of his grandfather.

Oklahoma! runs until Saturday 7 September. 7.30pm, 2.30pm (Wed & Sat only, plus some Thu). £10-£55. Chichester Festival Theatre, West Sussex, PO19 7LY. 01243 781 312. www.cft.org.uk

Read our review of Oklahoma! on the JR blog.

In conversation: James Phillips

Get a behind-the-scenes look at The Rubenstein Kiss courtesy of the playwright

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Playwright James Phillips talks to Judi Herman about the award-winning Rubenstein Kiss. Inspired by the haunting true story of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953 for allegedly providing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, Phillips tells their story. The Rubensteins are a deeply devoted Jewish couple, whose Communist idealism leads to their world being torn apart by suspicion and treachery, which then echoes through the generations.

The Rubenstein Kiss runs until Saturday 13 April. 7.30pm, 3pm (Sat & Tue only). £22, £18 concs. Southwark Playhouse, SE1 6BD. 020 7407 0234. http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

Read our review of The Rubenstein Kiss on the JR blog.

In conversation: Aaron Gelkoff and Sue Kelvin

Meet two stars from the award-winning musical Caroline, Or Change

Aaron Gelkoff (photo by Craig Topham) and Sue Kelvin

Aaron Gelkoff (photo by Craig Topham) and Sue Kelvin

Caroline, Or Change, the multi-award-winning musical by Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori, draws on Kushner’s Deep South Jewish childhood to tell its tale of changing times in 60s America. The action takes place at Chanukah in 1962, as shockwaves from the assassination of JFK on 22 November rock America and the world. Aaron Gelkoff plays Noah Gellman, a nine-year-old Jewish boy whose relationship with his family’s black maid Caroline (played by Sharon D Clarke**) consoles him more than his stepmother ever can after the death of his mother. Sue Kelvin plays the doting Grandma, mother of the boy’s bereaved father. Judi Herman caught up with both actors to discuss their preparations for the roles; the experience of black and Jewish minorities in 60s Louisiana and how it chimes with our current uneasy times of racism and antisemitism; and what it takes to be a star in musical theatre today – both upcoming and experienced.

Caroline, Or Change runs until Saturday 6 April. 7.30pm (Mon-Sat), 2.30pm (Thu & Sat only). From £20*. Playhouse Theatre, WC2N 5DE. 084 4871 7631. www.carolineorchange.co.uk

*A limited number of £5 tickets are available to ages 16-25 on the day of performance and in person from the Playhouse Theatre box office. There is also an offer on that allows anyone named Caroline a free ticket when also purchasing another paying ticket. ‘Carolines Go Free’ is an exclusive offer available via the box office in person or by phone.

**Note that Sharon D Clarke will not be appearing on Monday evenings 7 Jan to 1 Mar.

Read our five-star review of Caroline, Or Change on the JR blog.

In conversation: Rabbi Leivi Sudak

Discover the extraordinary real life story behind the Tony Award-winning musical Come From Away

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From the Canadian Jewish writing team Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away tells the incredible true story of how the residents of Gander, Newfoundland, welcomed the passengers of planes from around the world grounded by the 9/11 attacks, including a stranded rabbi from London. As the show arrives in London via Dublin this January, the real life rabbi – Leivi Sudak of Edgware Lubavitch – tells Judi Herman the full story of the welcome with which he was blessed in Gander, and the support he in turn was able to bring to other passengers and to a Holocaust survivor who had made his home in Gander.

His story is in two parts and both share wonderful instances of the kindness of Gander’s residents. The first ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, while in the second listeners will find out how a fellow passenger, an Israeli Jewish Buddhist, ended up peeling potatoes with Rabbi Sudak to help prepare a Shabbat meal. Discover kosher wine in a Gander supermarket, hear the remarkable story of that Holocaust survivor, and the nail-biting story of how Rabbi Sudak made New York in time for Rosh Hashanah thanks to a 500-mile dash by an extraordinary Gander couple.

Come From Away runs Wednesday 30 January – Saturday 14 September. 7.30pm, 2.30pm (Wed & Sat only). From £19.50. Phoenix Theatre, WC2H 0JP. https://comefromawaylondon.co.uk

Read our review of Come From Away on the JR blog.

In conversation: Richard Kalinoski

The American playwright discusses his play Beast on the Moon

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Speaking from his Milwaukee home, Richard Kalinoski talks to Judi Herman about his play, Beast on the Moon, which comes to London’s Finborough Theatre at the end of January. Set in 1920s Milwaukee, his story follows the fate of an ill-matched couple, Aram and Seta. The immigrant refugees are thrown together in the aftermath of the Armenian massacre, trying to rebuild their lives, which is eventually made possible thanks to a youngster from the Italian community.

Beast on the Moon runs Tuesday 29 January – Saturday 23 February. 7.30pm, 3pm (Sat & Sun only). £18-£20, £16-£18 concs. Finborough Theatre, SW10 9ED. 012 2335 7851. www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Read our review of Beast on the Moon on the JR blog.

In conversation: Alexander Bodin Saphir

The writer and filmmaker talks about his debut play Rosenbaum’s Rescue

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The grandparents of Alexander Bodin Saphir were among 7,000 Danish Jews who were saved from the Nazis in October 1943 and this daring episode is the subject of his new play, Rosenbaum’s Rescue. Ahead of its premiere at London’s Park Theatre, and our article about the play and its very personal story in the January issue of JR, Alexander met up with Judi Herman during Chanukah, when he told her more about his own background and how the story of the play – part of which takes place during Chanukah – is relevant to the festival’s message of defiance and freedom.

Rosenbaum’s Rescue runs Wednesday 9 January to Saturday 9 February 7.30pm, 3pm (Thu & Sat only). £18.50-£32.50, £16.50- £23.50 concs. Park Theatre, N4 3JP. 020 7870 6876. www.parktheatre.co.uk

Read our four-star review of Rosenbaum’s Rescue on the JR blog.

In conversation: Henry Naylor

The award-winning playwright discusses his double bill about the Syrian conflict and 1936 Munich Olympics

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Borders/Games is the new double bill from playwright Henry Naylor, currently playing at London’s Arcola theatre. Borders, he explains, is “the story of the 21st century in 70 minutes – 9/11, bombs, Bono and Bin Laden”. While Games, set in Berlin, 1936, is about “Europe fracturing, antisemitism rising and right-wing populism surging”. Judi Herman, an old friend of Naylor’s from the days when both of them contributed to BBC Radio 4’s topical comedy show Week Ending, caught up with him to discuss his move from comedy to drama. Find out how he was inspired, for his most recent plays, to write about the plight of a contemporary Syrian graffiti artist struggling to use her art to bring down the Assad regime. He pairs her story with that of two promising German Jewish women athletes, who faced horrific prejudice in their bid to compete for their country in the 1936 Olympics.

Photo by Rosalind Furlong

Borders/Games runs until Friday 21 December. 7pm (Mon-Sat), 2.30pm (Sat). £10-£22 (per play). Arcola Theatre, E8 3DL. 020 7503 1646. www.arcolatheatre.com

Read our review of the double bill on the JR blog.

In conversation: Jenna Augen

The American star of Bad Jews returns to JR OutLoud to discuss her latest role

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It’s the season for Chanukah fun, and laugh-out-loud slapstick comedy with music doesn’t come any funnier than the smash hit show The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. Producer Kenny Wax and Mischief Theatre have just announced an extension until at least November 2019! And the good news is that Jenna Augen is to continue in the role of resourceful bank receptionist Ruth Monaghan. Judi Herman and Jenna last chatted on JR OutLoud when she was one of the four stars of another smash hit – Bad Jews – so Judi was delighted to meet up again to talk farce, diamond heists, bad puns, accents, Jewish roles and much more.

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery runs until Sunday 3 November 2019. 7.30pm, 2.30pm (Sat only), 3pm (Sun only). £10-£72.50. Criterion Theatre, W1V 9LB. 084 4815 6131. www.bankrobberycomedy.com

In conversation: Robert Neumark Jones

The London actor talks about his role in Stephen Laughton’s One Jewish Boy

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“With the shadow of hatred festering at its very core,” writes Stephen Laughton of his latest play, “[One Jewish Boy] is a bittersweet comedy fuelled by antisemitism.” To discuss this and more, Judi Herman caught up with actor Robert Neumark Jones, who plays Jesse, the title role in this two-hander. The pair delve into Laughton’s story of one Jewish boy and how his his life, love, family and marriage are affected by antisemitism.

One Jewish Boy* runs Tuesday 11 December – Saturday 5 January. 7.30pm, 3pm (phone for matinee dates). £18.50, £15.50 concs. Old Red Lion, EC1V 4NJ. 033 3012 4963. www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk

*Play contains strong language

Read our review of One Jewish Boy on the JR blog.