by Daniel Kanaber.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01923 2225671.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 February.
Skilful comic writing with an acerbic edge.
It isn’t the first time this Jewish joke has made it into a play title. Steven Berkoff’s 2004 Sit and Shiver employed it in fuller form. The Hebrew ‘shiva’, or seven (the number of days Joseph mourned his son Jacob), indicates a week-long family mourning, at home, not necessarily sitting and with no requirement to turn the heating down while coming to terms with bereavement.
And no people seem to have been closer than Mordecai and his recently dead wife, Sadie. There’s plenty of comedy in Daniel Kanaber’s play – more than director Derek Bond likes to admit. From the start Kanaber shows an ability to raise, drop then pick-up a conversational thread to make a point humorously.
It begins with nervous young Orthodox Rabbi Joshua hinting at a problem with Mordecai’s shoes. Clothing – new, old or rent in twain – continues to be a source of humour as well as tension, expressing the coldness particularly between Mordecai and his adult son Ben, to which the title principally relates.
Mordecai has laid-out Sadie’s dress along their bed, able to show love only for the dead. Sadie clearly spent years suffering ill-health. In a moment that could be humorous but is essentially solemn here, self-pitying Mordecai compares the deaths of Sadie and the local pharmacist’s daughter to say there is no suffering like unto his own.
There are plenty of laughs as Ben’s lack of faith, Joshua’s nerves and Mordecai’s grief form something less than an emotional coalition. But there are plenty more held back which might helpfully have pointed-up emotional indulgence. The trouble is, either Kanaber’s less successful with emotional intensity or he never intended it without the comic edge missing on Watford’s stage.
Fine actor David Horovitch is reduced to fist-in-eye, clutched-voice substitutes for tears at moments of grief, and intense moments have nowhere to dissipate. It makes for a rough ride, on a skeletal set which ill-serves a script full of physical detail and displaying Mordecai’s inward-looking preoccupation – which meets its response in faint offstage voices as the neighbourhood quickly passes on to shiver for the pharmacist’s daughter instead.
Mordecai Tinnaver: David Horovitch.
Rabbi Joshua Avod: Ilam Goodman.
Ben Tinnaver: Ben Caplan.
Director: Derek Bond.
Designer: James Perkins.
Lighting: Sally Ferguson.
Sound: John Leonard.