The world premiere of this new play, written and directed by Gary Sinyor, runs at the Arts Theatre until 14 May 2016. But is it as great as it makes out to be or should it disappear quietly?
On the banks of the Nile, the princess of Egypt lifts a Jewish baby from the Nile waters, but changes her mind, chucks him back and chooses a prettier one. The reject survives, is named Notmoses and winds up among the toiling Jewish captives, under a camp, leatherclad slavedriver who enjoys skipping with his whip as they build the Pyramids (“Its a pyramid scheme, we sell them before they’re finished”).
As we head into March (where on earth did February go?), Love London Love Culture has a list of shows to look out for this month. Picks include The Painkiller, The Caretaker, NotMoses in the West End, and Jane Horrocks at the Young Vic.
Arriving at the Arts Theatre as part of Women in the West End, a three-week celebration of female creativity, is a new play by Tom Crawshaw based on Jane Austen’s work.
What happens when you create an experiment, with a set of scientists to try to make a winning formulaic musical, all by a computer? Well, the outcome of this experiment is Beyond The Fence
Gary Sinyor announces casting for his play, NotMoses, which will begin previews at the Arts Theatre on 10 March 2016. The cast includes Antonia Davies as Aviva, Dana Haqjoo as Pharaoh, Greg Barnett as NotMoses, Jasmine Hyde as the Princess, Joe Morrow as Feripoti, Thomas Nelstrop as Moses, Niv Petel as Rameses and Leon Stewart plays the Rabbi.
Have you seen the rave reviews for our Featured Show? After five years away, The Blues Brothers have returned to the West End for a limited season at the Arts Theatre with a festive special billed as “the most electric rock ‘n’ roll party of the year” (See also News). In The Blues Brothers: Xmas Special, David Kristopher-Brown and Joshua …
After five years away, the most electric rock ’n’ roll party of the year is coming back to the Arts Theatre in The Blues Brothers: Xmas Special. David Kristopher-Brown and Joshua Mumby will star as Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues, with Simon Ray Harvey taking on the role of Ray. The company is completed by Sasi Strallen, T’Shan Williams and Hannah Kee as the Stax Sisters.
I had been wanting for a while to catch up on this fringe squib about the lives of front-of-house theatre workers, and with devilish cunning Max Reynolds’ production, sharing the Arts with American Idiot, runs four matinees a week – tues, Weds, two on Friday and one on Saturday. Thus not only us theatre anoraks with too many booked-up nights, but actual ushers themselves can go.
Arts Theatre, London
Book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael MayerLyrics by Billie Joe ArmstrongMusic by Green DayDirected and choreographed by Racky Plews
Amelia Lily and Aaron Sidwell
It has been nearly three years since Green Day’s American Idiot played in the capital and Racky Plews’ take on the show, filling the summer slot at London’s relatively bijou Arts Theatre, delivers an energy and sound that is rarely seen in the West End.
The opening television sequence of various cable news snippets throws the audience into the story’s recent historical time, ingeniously drawing them into a single TV set which replaces the more lavish multiple-screen settings, typically found in a larger scale production. Sara Perks’ design work makes effective use of background art around the stage, mimicking a captive glued to the TV set and thus cleverly and appropriately setting the tone for the opening number, American Idiot.
The show’s distinctly modern-era story era follows three young men, Johnny, Tunny and Will, struggling to make sense of a seemingly directionless post 9/11 suburban wasteland, filled with nothing but misinformation, mediocrity and vacuous reality. As in nature so in life – vacuums are abhorred – and it is variously drugs, military service and disparate relationships with girls that fill the boys lives.
Of the three, Aaron Sidwell’s Johnny gives a solid lead performance, combining charisma, presence and humour. Steve Rushton as Will and Alexis Gerred’s Tunny manage to define the frustrations, anger and yet also the hope of their generation.
One of this musical’s curiosities is that the show’s girls, whilst vital to its plot, are also strangely marginalised in the narrative. The harshly named Whatsername is played by Amelia Lily (she of X-Factor fame and now making a creditable crossover into musical theatre) whilst Raquel Jones is stunning as the show’s Extraordinary Girl.
In what can prove a tough gig seeking to replicate a band, Mark Crossland does a stellar job as musical director. Alex Marschisone [drums], Brock Eddowes [Bass] and Tommaso Varvello [Guitar] combine to produce a sound that offers up a worthy tribute to the original band.
Plews’ vision of the show’s staging and dance is inspirational, reflecting a broad, hands-on grasp of modern popular culture. In her programme notes she speaks of having grown up to Green Day’s pop-punk sound and her work not only defines a respect for the music, it also evidences a profound understanding of Billy Joe Armstrong’s nuance. Powerful stuff.
Whether you’re a fan of quality new musical theatre or just love the music and want to experience the songs of a generation, then go. Green Day’s American Idiot is one of the most exciting and invigorating shows in town.
Runs until 27th September
Due to popular demand, Theatre Royal Bath Productions has announced an additional six-week run of Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews at London’s Arts Theatre. The critically-acclaimed production, which was due to finish its limited season at the Arts on 30 May, will now continue until 11 July 2015, following sell-out runs at Ustinov Studio, Bath and St James Theatre, London.
The producers of Beautiful Thing have announced the early closure of the touring production. The last date will at the Leicester Curve on Saturday 30 May 2015. Executive producer Tom O’Connell said, “It is with great regret that we have made the difficult decision to close Beautiful Thing early, but we are all immensely proud to have produced the show, …
Arts Theatre, London
Written by Joshua HarmonDirected by Michael Longhurst
Ilan Goodman and Jenna Augen
Acclaimed at Bath last year and sold out at London’s St James Theatre in January, Bad Jews now makes the short hop across town to the Arts Theatre to meet an almost insatiable demand to see the show. Indeed the clamour for tickets has been so strong that it led comedienne Ruby Wax to tweet recently of Bad Jews’ “mostly Jewish audience. If you insult them, they will come”.
The play is provocatively titled because as Harmon admits in the programme, eleven years ago and before a plot had even evolved, he thought it would be “a good title for a play”. Hmm. A dodgy premise for any creative work. Substance needs to come before the packaging and ultimately Bad Jews makes for mediocre drama.
Three Jewish cousins (plus Melody the Christian girlfriend of one cousin) are gathered in New York for the funeral of grandfather Poppy, a Holocaust survivor. Amidst familiar and familial spats of jealousy, rivalry and momentary affection, the plot’s action focusses upon a Jewish necklace (a Chai) that Poppy had kept concealed during his time in the camps.
Religiously committed granddaughter Daphna believes the Chai should rightfully be hers whilst assimilated cousin Liam (who via some family chicanery, already possesses the necklace) is on the cusp of proposing to Melody and plans to give her the Chai in place of a traditional engagement ring. Daphna’s nauseated fury at Liam’s plan is understandable. However where Harmon abuses our disbelief, whose suspension is already hanging by a thread, is in asking us to accept the conceit that WASP Melody would even prefer the battered Chai over a diamond solitaire. It makes for an in-credible pivotal plot-line.
To be fair, Harmon does thread some strands of relevance into his work. His exposition of the vain and arrogant self-belief of Daphna’s piety is spot-on and he offers a further morsel of intellectual meat to chew on as he references the impact of assimilation and “marrying out” upon Judaism’s cultural heritage. Noble arguments and credit too for his attempt to address the impact of the Holocaust upon third generation survivors. But ultimately it’s all packaged up in a bundle of writing that far too often makes for a tedious naivety. Where Arthur Miller once brought a scalpel-like precision to such complex studies of humanity, Harmon wields mallet and chisel and it shows.
Speaking to The Guardian recently Harmon tells of how just before the play opened in Bath, that he had cut a line from the text that referred to the safety in being Jewish today, recognising that the sentiment didn’t accurately reflect the current experience of European Jews. Whilst the edit was necessary, actually the chopped words should never have been written in the first place. For most of the last millennium continental Europe has been a deadly place for Jews – and that’s both before and after Hitler – and Harmon’s failure to acknowledge that continuum, even as he wrote Bad Jews, evidences a worrying ignorance.
And that side-splitting comedy? The programme notes reference Mel Brooks’ The Producers in which Brooks brilliantly lampooned Hitler in his 1968 farce and subsequent musical. However, that The Producers worked at all was because Brooks craftily mocked an evil regime. Here, by contrast, Bad Jews’ audience rather than laughing at the Nazis, are invited to guffaw at a surviving family’s struggles to cope with the Holocaust’s devastating legacy. There’s a whiff of freak-show here and it leaves a nasty taste.
Further credit to some of the performers. Ilan Goodman’s Liam is a focussed channelled force, who notwithstanding the ridiculously Fawlty-esque extremes imposed upon his character, makes us believe in his comfortably assimilated Jewish identity, as well as his love for Melody. Playing his love interest, Gina Bramhill is a strawberry blonde genteel gentile. It’s a novel twist that sees the non-Jew sketched out as a caricatured stereotype, but again and to her credit, Bramhill makes fabulous work of some occasionally ghastly dialogue. That Jenna Augen’s Daphna, almost a year into the play’s run, speaks too often in a squeaky gabble is mind boggling.
Completing the quartet, Joe Coen’s Jonah is the Beavis-type silent one, who too little too late offers an endgame revelation that deserves more analysis from Harmon than the (yet another) sensational moment it is given.
In his song Shikse Goddess, taken from The Last Five Years, Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown, nails the complex and awkward nuances of assimilation with witty yet profound analysis in four minutes. Harmon takes more than an hour and a half to clumsily cover much of the same ground. Somewhere in Bad Jews there could be a good play struggling to emerge. This ain’t it.
Runs to 30th May 2015