THE HOLY ROSENBERGS
by Ryan Craig.
Cottesloe Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 24 June 2011.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 19 March.
Multiple Jewish concerns crammed together.
Families can be suffocating. Jewish families particularly, as a group who, though part of the fabric of British life, can never be sure society isn’t going to turn on them and turn them out.
Ryan Craig’s The Holy Rosenbergs spins on this uncertainty. It is why Craig’s paterfamilias David (Henry Goodman) goes to such trouble to ingratiate himself with his local community. And it is why Zionism – the longing for a homeland, Israel – looms so large in any Jewish family equation.
Unfortunately, in trying to marry these threads with the intransigent problem of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza and human rights issues, Craig has produced a play that threatens to suffocate itself in excess.
Veering between typical Jewish north London domestic and political debate, Craig ends up between cliché and echoes of Arthur Miller at his most schematic. Indeed, this is like a north London All My Sons complete with paternal denial and hidden complicity. There’s even a touch of Death of a Salesman thrown in.
The eldest Rosenberg son, Danny, has been killed fighting for the homeland in Israel. Daughter Ruth is a human rights lawyer who, by working in Geneva on a UN report investigating human rights abuses, is felt by the community to have betrayed her roots. Meanwhile, younger son Jonny suffers from cursed younger brother syndrome and skidding off the rails.
It is the evening before Danny’s funeral; David is trying to re-launch his catering firm by cosying-up his friend Saul, for whose daughter’s wedding he is trying to secure a catering contract. When the local Rabbi comes to disclose that a pro-Israel group is likely to demonstrate at Danny’s funeral if Ruth attends, the news acts as a catalyst for an explosion of truth-telling.
Dramaturgically, credulity is stretched to the limit when Stephen Boxer’s UN chief arrives at the Rosenbergs’ house with other revelations and Jonny at the last moment understands the reasons behind his father’s over-protectiveness. All the same, with Henry Goodman on board, The Holy Rosenbergs can’t be entirely discounted. Always watchable, he wrings universality and humanity out of the particular.
Simon: Philip Arditti.
Jonny: Alex Waldman.
Ruth: Susannah Wise.
David: Henry Goodman.
Lesley: Tilly Tremayne.
Saul: Paul Freeman.
Stephen: Stephen Boxer.
Director: Laurie Sansom.
Designer: Jessica Curtis.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound: Mike Winship.
Music: Jon Nicholls.
Company Voice work: Kate Godfrey.