THE MELTING POT
by Israel Zangwill
The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED to 19 December 2017.
Sun & Mon 7.30pm Mat Tues 2pm.
Runs 2hr 15 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: William Russell 5 December.
A new life in a new world
First performed in 1908 this play by the British writer Israel Zangwill has been staged in Britain since 1938, although it has remained popular in the United States. This revival comes up as topical as the day it was written. Set in New York we meet David Quixano, a young Russian violinist, who has come to live with his uncle Mendel after his family in Russia were all killed in the Kishnev pogrom. David, a tense, nervy and splendid performance by Steffan Cennyd, was the sole survivor and sees in this new world a land where races will mingle, cultures will join together and the blood stained past of the Europe he has left behind is forgotten. It is a land of opportunity. His uncle, Peter Marinker, is less certain. A pianist he has found himself reduced to playing in pit band orchestras and beer halls in a country where Jews are not accepted and sees no better future for his nephew.
David meets a young Russian woman, a radical, who works in a settlement for immigrants. She introduces him to a possible patron. A talented composer, he is creating a symphony called The Crucible about this melting pot society in which he has ended up. Zangwill’s play reflects some of his own experiences working in America in the early years of the last century and his marriage to the writer Edith Ayrton, who was a Gentile.
The plot is basically a Romeo and Juliet romance – David and Vera fall in love. But she is a Christian and, when her father (Peter Marinker again)arrives in Act Two, brought over by the Wasp and anti Semitic posh boy who wants her to be his mistress, since he is already married, the past catches up with them. Baron Revendal commanded the troops at the pogrom.
The speeches David gets to deliver are a mite flowery, but Cennyd makes a character, who could have been insufferable and silly in lesser hands, totally believable and compelling.
The rest of the performances are good, Whoopie van Raam is an en
chanting Vera, and there is a marvellous coup de theatre which may or may not be in the text. If the latter it is an inspired piece of direction by Max Elton. A Russian conductor sponsored by the posh boy is given the score of David’s symphony to read. At first it makes no sense. Then he gradually starts to grasp what the composer is trying to do in putting this melting pot world into music and the strains of the symphony start to swell until the room is full of glorious sound.
This run is far too short for such a fine play.
Mendel Quixano. Peter Marinker.
Kathleen O’Reilly: Katrina McKeever.
Vera Revendal: Whoopie van Raam.
Frau Quixano: Ann Queensberry.
David Quixano: Steffan Cennyd.
Quincy Davenport: Alexander Gatehouse.
Herr Pappelmeister: Hayward B Morse.
Baron Revendal: Peter Marinker.
Director: Max Elton.
Set & Costume Designer: Allegra Fitz Herbert.
Lighting Designer: Ben Jacobs.
Sound Designer: Piers Sherwood-Roberts.