Monday, 11 April 2016

"Bad Jews" by Joshua Harmon
Nottingham Theatre Royal

After Jonah, Daphna and Liam's Grandfather, Poppy, dies in New York, leaving a piece of religious jewellery, a "Hay", that he succeeded in hiding even from the Nazis during the Holocaust. The cousins fight over not only the family heirloom, but their religious faith, culture, and even the validity of each other's romances. The necklace has significance not for its monetary value but because of what it symbolised. Poppy kept it hidden under his tongue for two years while in a concentration camp.

In the week that sees the arguments over wills hitting the news, this is well timed, coincidentally. The play is billed as a dark comedy and, while there are some laughs here, I found the play interesting, and entertaining for different reasons. There's a lot of anger, which could also be translated as passion, shown mainly between Liam, the cousin who couldn't get to the funeral on time, and Daphna, the cousin who thought that she ought to get the "hay". And it's the passion behind the arguments, on both sides that makes this play just as fascinating as the main theme.

It's interesting that both Liam and Daphna want the jewellery, both for different reasons but it all comes back to their religion and their different ideas of carrying on the faith and religious traditions. Daphna wants it because she feels that it should be hers because she is passionate about being Jewish and her faith, as well as the story behind the "hay". She also seems to want to break the tradition as she says that this is normally passed sown to the male side of the family.

Liam wants it because he wants to propose to his latest girlfriend, Melody, in the same way that his Grandfather did to his Grandmother. As Poppy didn't have the money to buy a ring, he uses the "hay" until he could afford a ring. Liam though, unlike Daphna, is happy to let the  religlious  tradition and faith go bye the bye.

in the middle of all of these arguments is Jonah, whose New York apartment the play is set in.Jonah wants to keep everyone happy and at times sits squarely on the fence, which by the end is just a little too much for him and the play ends in an emotional finale.

Jonah (Jos Slovick) seems to be the most laid back of the family and while he is a modern Jew, he doesn't have that much of an opinion over the traditiions or the faith with all of the arguments between his brother and his cousin.

Ailsa Joy, who played Daphna is, as her name, a joy to watch and the one that I felt more pity for, if "pity" is the correct word. She is feisty and knows what she wants, but is also very upfront and blunt with her opinions which you can see is what rubs Liam up the wrong way. She has some very lengthy pieces of script and delivers them with a  natural flow and great passion for the role.

Ilan Goodman (Liam), I'm surprised that this show hasn't made him burst a blood vessel. He has a right old vitriolic rant against Daphna for what must be a solid ten minutes or so, which gained him a round of applause mid play it was that good.

And then poor Melody, played by Antonia Kinlay, introduced to the family like a Centurian to the amphitheatre. Sometimes the performance is suitably restrained but she comes in to her own close to the end.

The set of the apartment, overlooking the Hudson River, is one that anyone would love to live in. it looks like a proper apartment, all shiny and modern with a big fridge/freezer that actually works. Brilliant set designed by Richard Kent.

Directed by Michael Longhurst, who actually studied philosophy at Nottingham University, did a brilliant job here. Everything was so tight when it needed to be, like the full pelt arguments, and he's also not a director who's afraid to leave gaps with no speech or action to create tension.

As I said earlier, it's billed as a comedy but there's no big belly laughs, the comedy is subtle. It is there and it's natural comedy, the lines have not been written to create an obvious laugh. It's not needed as the play is very entertaining and natural humour comes from the characters.

There's quite a bit of bad language, but do not let that put you off because this play is a joy to watch and a real education on the modern Jew and being Jew-ish. "Bad Jews" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 16 April 2016. Go on, don't be tight, shell some money out for 90 minutes of quality theatre this week.

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