Part of BBC Radio’s Lockdown Theatre Festival of cancelled productions
Now on BBC Sounds
The Mikvah Project by Josh Azouz had originally got quite a way into its run at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond before lockdown took place.
A mikvah is a bath used in Judaistic ritual and the protagonists of the play, Eitan and Avi, meet there regularly on a Friday night to immerse themselves and achieve purification. It soon becomes apparent that 17-year-old Eitan has developed a crush on 35-year-old Avi and that his reasons for attending are, therefore, not quite as pure as they might be.
Avi resists the urge to respond though eventually does so, going as far as to accompany Eitan on a foreign holiday paid for by the younger man with his carefully saved Bar mitzvah money. Avi tells his pregnant wife that he is on a golfing holiday when all the while he is indulging in a different sort of bathing in a hotel pool.
This part of the plot seems highly unlikely given Avi’s steadfast refusal to cave into Eitan’s demands but the lure of their mutual attraction proves too strong and, therefore, the relationship develops and matters come to a head. All of this seemed vaguely reminiscent and then I realised that it is almost the plot of Brokeback Mountain but transposed to north London and with a slightly different age dynamic.
I did not miss the visual dimension quite so much in this production as in the two previous plays; indeed from photographs I later accessed it looks as though the mikvah would have over dominated the playing space at the Orange Tree so in that sense it was better left to our imaginations and the skill of the sound design of Lex Krosanke. Georgia Green’s directorial choices (or the original writing, I’m not sure which) was rather more questionable. The play makes heavy use of narration which interrupts the dialogue far too frequently and upsets the natural rhythms of the piece. Even more irritating is that much of this narration is in the third person with characters telling us what they are doing. I had assumed that this was all as a result of presenting the play in its new audio form but apparently the staged version used the same conceit – this must have been quite annoying. Creditably though, when the dialogue is allowed to flow it presents two distinct voices in the main characters and both are ably portrayed by Josh Zaré (Eitan) and Alex Waldmann (Avi). I learned quite a bit about Jewish rituals but insufficient about human relationships. The play simply needed to be much bolder than it was in raising the stakes for those involved.
‘Two distinct voices ably portrayed by @JoshZare & @WaldmannAlex’: @JohnChapman398 listens to @OrangeTreeThtr’s #TheMikvahProject via @TheatreLockdown, curated by @BertieCarvel. Now on @BBCSounds. #radioreview #LockdownTheatreFestival #theatrelockdown