Not Quite Jerusalem
By Paul Kember
The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED to
Tues – Sun 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun
TICKETS: 01223 357 851.
Review: William Russell 6 March.
Once upon a time several decades ago it was all the rage for young Britons to go and work on a kibbutz regardless of whether or not they were Jewish. It was part of the doing something before settling down to life in suburbia – today’s gap year doing the world is the same sort of thing but more ambitious and more for pleasure and sightseeing. On a kibbutz people who went there had to work but it was free bed and board. They went with the hope of sun, sand, sex and booze and as here in Kember’s play to escape from problems back home. Set in 1979 and staged in the West End 40 years ago this first London revival since then is part of the Finborough’s Fortieth Anniversary season. It has worn pretty well in social terms, although the first act in which we are introduced to the four new arrivals, a Cambridge drop out, two blokes , one a Northerner, one an Essex man, and a young woman claiming to be a nurse clearly suffering from what would have been called nerves then drags a little simply because so much has to be explained, the challengers they face are not all that dramatic and the fuss over the refusal to take part in a kibbutz celebration day seems a lot of fuss over nothing much. The drop out forms a relationship with the nice Israeli doing her last year of military service in the kibbutz, the yobs behave much as we expect English yobs abroad to behave and the girl’s claim to be a nurse is exposed. But in Act Two the lads do decide to take part in the community convert – disastrously as it turns out, totally misjudging what is expected of them – the question of who will stay, who will go, arises, and the drop out gets to explain just what is wrong with England, a terrific speech that chills the blood as relevant to today as it was then. Quite simply nothing has changed in England.
One cannot fault the cast. Alisa Joy is terrific as the tough Gilda struggling to understand through the language barrier – her English is adequate but not up to the subtleties demanded – just why Mike, sensitively done by Ryan Whittle, is so at a loss with the world, and Joe McArdle and Ronnie Yorke do the yobs, not quite as thick as they seem, to four letter perfection and get beyond the clichés that in a way they are. They are not quite as stupid as they seem, and oddly discover something they need in the kibbutz life they spend their time swearing about. Miranda Braun makes the irritating Carrie, who also finds what she was looking for in the kibbutz, both touching and irritating and Russell Bentley is a sympathetic kibbutz organiser. The big speech from Mike, however, is the moment to wait for as he contrasts the democracy of the kibbutz he is about to leave with the way things get done in England. Not that the kibbutz is Paradise, just that its members are not at the receiving end all the time of what those who government think is good for them he explains. It is well worth the wait to hear and Whittle delivers it beautifully. The politics of Kember’s play come across loud and clear today just as they did then. Perhaps louder given the state of the nation. People need to know their place as some of the electorate are going to realise one of those days when the change they voted for means things remain the same.
Dave: Joe McArdle.
Mike: Ryan Whittle.
Carrie: Miranda Braun.
Pete: Ronnie Yorke.
Ami: Russell Bentley.
Gila: Alisa Joy.
Director: Peter Kavanagh.
Designer: Ceci Calf.
Lighting Designer: Ryan Stafford.
Costume Designer: Isobel Pellow.
Production Photography: Kirsten McTernan.