The Arc - Soho Theatre
A trilogy of new Jewish Plays
Over the course of an hour, three new writers present new work, each one tasked with exploring birth, marriage or death, all weaving and representing modern Jewishness in their words. These early nuggets of narrative are rich and varied, the playwrights all able to find depth and distinction within their theme - what a treat.
Amy Rosenthal’s play Birth kicks off the proceedings. Michael and Lynda sit with the crossword, recovering after a visit from the grandchildren when an unexpected visitor graces their door. She reveals that nearly fifty years ago, Michael delivered her when he was a doctor in a maternity ward, claiming that he induced her mother prematurely as he was in a rush to go on holiday. She wants answers. Within its short time on stage, the play delves into murky, intergenerational topics hindered by Michael’s blunting tone but encouraged by Lynda’s warmth. Rosenthal’s writing is intelligent and efficient, the complex themes and personalities unravel swiftly without relying on stereotypes or clichés and the actors rise to the occasion.
Marriage from Alexis Zegerman looks to the future during a first date between Abigail Weinstock and Sam Thorpe-Spinks’s characters. Awkwardness and slip-ups fill the air as topics, normally reserved for later dates, cascade across the table, neither able to quite reconcile their Jewish identity and what it means if they do decide to keep seeing each other. Unhelpfully god arrives, seated behind them and demands that they ‘go forth and multiply’ to protect their bloodline - an order the pair don’t take too kindly. Zegerman delightfully toys with the humour between the couple, teasing out their loneliness and vulnerability within the compressed time - the surrealist element a witty touch.
Rounding off the trilogy is Death by Ryan Craig. Craig dives into multi-faceted loss as Adam deals with the breakdown of the relationship between his daughter’s mother, the prospect of her moving away looming closer. The uncertainty sits omnipresent, the lack of control over his surroundings causing him to grasp onto anything certain - like the death of his daughter’s hamster that he insists on a proper burial for. Craig teases the slightly morbid humour well, complimenting the sadness of the situation that the characters must navigate through. The authentic and inelegant family dynamic he creates is accessible and familiar, an impressive feat, in collaboration with the actors, despite the limited time to play with.
Though the premise of this showcase is in itself limiting, three plays restricted to an hour, each finds its time to evolve beyond a proof of concept piece into plays brimming with potential - I would like to see them each as fully explored, standalone pieces. This small presentation proves (not that it was ever in doubt) that the Jewish theatre scene in London is overflowing with talent across the board, the craft of these tiny snippets of narrative are overflowing with love, hope and loss that all will find relatability nestled within. I look forward to seeing these plays return bigger, and bolder in future iterations.
Running until 26th August - Tickets