The‘shik­sagod­dess’whoact­skosher

Ac­tress Lara Pul­ver has gone from gen­tile siren to nice Jewish girl in 12 months. Next stop, Hol­ly­wood, she tells John Nathan

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS 31 -

FROM SHIKSA God­dess to Jewish princess. For a young ac­tress this is not the most ob­vi­ous path to star­dom. But for Lara Pul­ver, one of this coun­try’s most promis­ing stage per­form­ers, it is a route that last year led to her be­ing nom­i­nated for an Olivier Award.

“That the roles are Jewish, or Jewish-re­lated, has been a com­plete co­in­ci­dence, to be hon­est,” says Pul­ver dur­ing a break from re­hears­ing her latest role.

The 27-year-old ac­tress came to the at­ten­tion of Lon­don theatre au­di­ences two years ago when she landed the role of Cathy in the Me­nier Choco­late Fac­tory pro­duc­tion of Ja­son Robert Brown’s mu­si­cal The Last Five Years.

In Robert Brown’s au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal show, about a failed mar­riage be­tween a non-Jewish girl and a Jewish boy, Pul­ver was the gen­tile half of the re­la­tion­ship. This is the char­ac­ter about whom Jewish Jamie sings his an­them to gen­tile girls — it is called Shiksa God­dess.

In Beau Jest, which ar­rives at the Hack­ney Em­pire in May, Pul­ver is star­ring in an­other mixed re­la­tion­ship. This time she plays the Jewish half.

In the hit com­edy by Amer­i­can writer James Sher­man, Pul­ver plays Sarah Gold­man, a nice Jewish girl who has a nice (but non-Jewish) boyfriend. Sarah can­not find the courage to in­tro­duce him to her strict par­ents, Miriam (played by Sue Kelvin) and Abe (Jack Chissick). So she does not. In­stead, she hires an ac­tor from an es­cort agency to turn up at the fam­ily seder and pre­tend to be her in­vented, and very Jewish, beau.

“In re­hearsals, we’ve had so much fun sit­ting round the seder ta­ble,” says Pul­ver, for whom the play, and Ja­son Robert Brown’s mu­si­cal, chimes with her fam­ily’s ex­pe­ri­ence.

“My fa­ther’s fam­ily are Jewish and my mother con­verted when they were mar­ried. But they sep­a­rated when I was about 11, so I haven’t had my fa­ther’s Jewish fam­ily around me for a long time. I see my grand­par­ents and stuff, but I was a child when I was go­ing to Shab­bos with them. So do­ing what I’m do­ing now is bring­ing back lots of mem­o­ries. And when I look at the char­ac­ters Miriam and Abe, I think: ‘Oh my God, they could be my grand­par­ents.’”

The con­ver­sion by Pul­ver’s mother only re­cently came to light. “It’s re­ally strange be­cause my she never told me. And then when I de­scribed the plot of Beau Jest to her, she was, like: ‘Well, I con­verted when I was 21. That’s what I had to do.’ For some rea­son it had just never come up be­fore. But good things came out of it. Me and my sis­ter.”

Al­though Pul­ver gar­nered good re­views for The Last Five Years, it was her per­for­mance last year in Pa­rade (an­other Ja­son Robert Brown mu­si­cal) at Lon­don’s Don­mar Ware­house that got her no­ticed by the crit­ics.

The mu­si­cal’s book, by Al­fred Driv­ing Miss Daisy Uhry, com­bines a love story with deep-south an­tisemitism. Pul­ver played Lu­cille Frank, the real-life Jewish wife of Leo (played by Ber­tie Culver), a Jewish fac­tory-owner falsely con­victed of mur­der­ing a girl in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia, in 1913. It is a pow­er­ful piece in which Pul­ver’s char­ac­ter grows from a Jewish south­ern belle into a wo­man of sub­stance de­ter­mined to save her hus­band from the gal­lows.

It was, says Pul­ver, her most re­ward­ing role. “When you’re young and mod­er­ately at­trac­tive,” she says mod­estly, “you don’t al­ways get meaty roles. Pa­rade was re­ward­ing and emo- tion­ally ex­haust­ing, but I learned a hell of a lot.”

Play­ing Sarah at Hack­ney may be an­other Jewish role, but the show could not be more dif­fer­ent. Even so, is there the dan­ger of direc­tors type­cast­ing her?

“You do get type­cast when you’re a young Jew play­ing a young Jew. I think it’s just that, you get a script, and what­ever is re­quired of you, you slip into the role and run with it.”

“ Beau Jest is new ter­ri­tory for me. When I picked up the script, I was in fits. It’s very funny, very quick, very witty. It couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent from what I played at the Don­mar.”

Pul­ver does not know yet if there are any more Jewish roles in the off­ing. Af­ter ap­pear­ing at Hack­ney, she turns her sights to the more glam­orous prospect of Broad­way and maybe Hol­ly­wood, where her Amer­i­can hus­band and fel­low ac­tor Joshua Dal­las is forg­ing a ca­reer. The roles she turns down are, she says, as im­por­tant to her ca­reer as the ones she takes on.

“I wish He­len Mir­ren would sit me down and say: ‘If you do x, y, z, you will be me.’ But it doesn’t hap­pen that way. There is no for­mula. Which is very ex­cit­ing, be­cause then ev­ery ac­tor has their own path.” Beau Jest is at the Hack­ney Em­pire, Lon­don E8, from May 7. Tel: 020 8985 2424

Lara Pul­ver with Beau Jest co-star Adam Rayner. “We’ve had fun around the seder ta­ble,” she says

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