by Rikki Beadle-Blair.
Theatre Royal Stratford East Gerry Raffles SquareE15 1BN To 19 November 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mt 12, 16, 19 Nov 2.30pm.
Audio-described 19 Nov 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 8 Nov.
Captioned 10 Nov.
Pay What You Like (Newham residents who are first-time visitors to this theatre only) 12 Nov 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8534 0310.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 October.
Verve and energy in quick-moving drama.
In Germany Ike gets work as the Weissmann family’s ‘Shabbos Goy’, a non-Jew doing domestic work not permitted to Jews on the Sabbath. First he checks the job-title has no hidden racist implications, for he is Black. As it’s 1938, it’s more surprising a Jewish family is in a position to employ anybody anyway.
Later, Ike discovers he is allowed to enact the Hitler-salute; only Jews are prohibited; there has evidently been serious research going on here. Less, perhaps, for the story of modern-day New York’s Vandermolen family, where rap, race and randiness overflow.
Rikki Beadle-Blair makes a bonfire of the prejudices in his dramatic crucible of Jew, Gentile and Gypsy, Black and White, Gay and Straight, interweaving two family stories across seventy years in the kind of short-scene, soap-opera style familiar in the plays of Canadian Brad Fraser.
Like Fraser he gives these scenes the richness necessary for theatre, though there are times theatrical verve outruns clear dramatic development. Played in a studio space created on the Theatre Royal’s stage, with two banks of audience watching the action unfold on a stage-strip in the centre, plus occasional crashing entries over metal rails behind, and – in the modern sections – rapid rap expressions of feeling, the action’s immediate and involving, but the frequent switching doesn’t always give a sense of direction and character development.
That comes in the later stages, when the outsider Ike puts love before survival, in a slow, tense scene with a friend who’s now a Nazi official, and in the long final scene in each time-zone, things slowed by a major set-piece filling the stage.
A stretch of concentration camp fencing signals a scene that begins seeming Holocaust exploitation until its true nature becomes apparent, and a long table where the violence of desire is finally resolved in modern times.
Played with an energy that shows, whenever events slow down, it’s based in understanding and truth of character, this is – despite some connections hard to make on a first seeing – a unique, dynamic, ultimately involving picture of love working its way through personal, social and political barriers.
Natalie Weissmann/Ruth Vandermolen: Katie Borland.
Ike Essien/Avery ‘Slice’ Price: Nathan Clough.
Hanna Weissmann/Abi Vandermolen: Mandy Fenton.
Morris Weissmann/Noah Vandermolen: Tom Ross-Williams.
Hersh Weissmann/Harry Vandermolen: Richard Simons.
Ion Koka/Nicky Crawford: Kyle Treslove.
Aimon Hertz/Ryan ‘Rhyme’ Watson: Toby Wharton.
Director/Designer/Costume: Rikki Beadle-Blair.
Lighting: Michael Nabarro.
Sound: Theo Holloway.
Music: Rikki Beadle-Blair, Joni Levinson.
Art director: John Gordon.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Stuart Mackenzie.
Assistant costume: Amita Kilumanga.