12:37 by Julia Pascal. The Finborough Theatre,118 Finborough Road, London SW10 to 21 December 2022. 4****. William Russell.

This sprawling splendid play is about two Irish Jewish brothers and deals with their lives from the 1930s onward up to the 22 of July 1946 when the King David Hotel in Jerusalem was bombed by right wing Zionists. It was the headquarters if the British in Palestine and 91 people, not all British by any means, were killed and 46 wounded. The five strong cast come up with superb performances under the author’s direction – the only flaw is that they shout a little too much at times. The Finborough is a small space and taking it down a little would add to the power of an already engrossing and moving story. We follow Paul and Cecil from their youth in Dublin to the streets of London in the time of Mosley and his Blackshirts, through the war and then to Palestine – they are Irish nationalists but they do not take quite the same route getting to Jerusalem. They are both in love with the same girl, they have a powerful and influential mother and this mixed in with the story of what was happening in Palestine makes for an engrossing evening. When it comes to the bombing itself and the details of how it was arranged, how the authorities failed to take the warnings seriously, the picture of the carnage the resulted the evening reaches a shattering climax. It is performed on an almost bare stage, the actors have to create the different worlds with simple props – changes of time and place are shown when they hold up the front pages of newspapers with the date on them. They sing, they dance, they fight, they perform a mercy killing on their sick father – their mother later makes clear she may be widowed but she will marry again -and headstrong Paul falls for Eileen, who is not Jewish, while Cecil, the more sensitive of the two, seems to spend his life trailing in his brother’s wake. You get a full blown family saga coupled with that climactic moment of the bombing which leaves one completely overwhelmed by the horror of it all, the callousness, the folly of those who ignored the warnings. The bombing of the King David Hotel is one of those events which at the time was horrifying but has both been forgotten and worse has followed in the name of national aspirations.

Pascal has packed a lot into her play and while knowing more about Jewish rituals would be useful it is an engrossing piece and refreshing that at a time when theatres are stuffed with Christmas fare here is a really serious play with a great deal to say about nationalism, what makes a terrorist, what constitutes someone fighting for freedom, and how a family’s relationships are affected over the passage of some two decades by events not always outside their control.

Paul Green: Alex Cartuson.

Eileen O’Reilly/ Rina Goldberg: Lisa O’Connor.

Cecil Green: Eoin O’Dubhghaill.

Minnie Green/Shoshana Liebovicz/Matron: Rith Lass.

Harry Cohen/Jonathan Stein/ British Soldiers and Generals: Danann McAleer.

Director: Julia Pascal.

Set & Costume Designer: Liberty MOnroe.

Lighting Designer: Jon Stacey.

Sound Designer: Flick Isaac-Chilton.

Production Photography: Yaron Lapid.

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