The Rubber Merchants by Hanoch Levin. The Old Red Lion, 418 St John Street, Islington EC1 to 29 January 2022. 1* William Russell

This 1970s farce by the Israeli writer Hanoch Levin is an odd piece which at two and a half hours really does need drastic cutting if it is to work. Director Asya Sosis has assembled a good cast whose energy and versatility have to be admired but one does tire of the tale of greed and lust, failures to seize the moment and condoms after about half an hour. Add an interval and it becomes almost too much to endure. At an hour and a bit straight through the mixture – there are some decent songs which the players put across well – might have worked – but as it is Levin’s soufflé falls sadly flat.
It all takes place somewhere or other near enough for Odessa to seem the promised land. Bella (Hadas Kershaw) runs a pharmacy which is in need of some investment. Into the shop comes Yohanan Tsingerbati (Tom Dalton), a single man who wants some condoms but starts off with asking for aspirin. Bella spots a victim straight away, In no time she has discovered that the weedy Yohanan not only claims to possess a large piece of equipment which requires the condoms but he also has money which he is reluctant to part with. Add Shmuel Sproll (Joseph Emms), who has a cello case stuffed with ten thousand condoms he wants to sell to Bella – he would also like Bella – and a kind of dance of desire ensues. In Act two we meet them all twenty years later and still unfulfilled.
Dmitriy Daratsky ‘s songs are good and towards the end of Act One Dalton and Evans get a terrific duet which left me hoping they had found one another, but sadly no. For reasons that are far from clear the stage is covered in polystyrene packaging through which everyone must wade – a bit like the script. One leaves feeling sorry for the cast and sorrier for the audience although they could have left at the interval, an option not open to me
Bella Berlow: Hadas Kersaw.
Yohanan Tsingerbat: Tom Dayton.
Shmuel Sproll: Joseph Emms

Director: Asya Sosts.
Movement Director: MariiA Misnikova.
Composer: Dimitriy Saratsky.
Set Design: Hardy Gru.
Costume Design: Auda Sakho.
Lighting Design: Nat Green.

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