Ahazymem­ory

The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism -

MEM­ORY Plea­sance The­atre, Lon­don N7

THERE WILL be those who balk at Jonathan Licht­en­stein’s mem­ory play. It shifts from Berlin in 1990, just af­ter the city’s di­vid­ing wall had been taken down, to Beth­le­hem, 2006, just as Is­rael’s se­cu­rity wall is be­ing put up.

It also switches to and from the Nazi theft of a Jewish busi­ness in 1930s Berlin to Is­rael’s de­struc­tion of a Pales­tinian’s home to make way for the wall.

Mem­ory elo­quently im­plies a stupid ques­tion, one that ap­pears to be di­rected at Jews (of­ten by Jews) more than any other group. And the ques- tion is, how can those who suf­fer bear to cause suf­fer­ing in oth­ers? Which on the face of it seems fair, ex­cept that it is built on the no­tion that the more you suf­fer, the bet­ter you be­have, which as bril­liant the­o­ries go is right up there with blondes hav­ing more fun.

Still, Licht­en­stein’s writ­ing and Terry Hands’s im­pres­sively acted Cl­wyd The­atr Cymru pro­duc­tion packs a pow­er­ful punch, not least be­cause of the el­e­gant ve­hi­cle that al­lows the action to switch pe­riod and place.

Mem­ory is an­chored in a room where a group of ac­tors are re­hears­ing a play. And it is this play-within-a-play that be­gins in an East Berlin apart­ment where 78-year-old Eva (Vivien Parry) is vis­ited by her grand­son Peter (Oliver Ryan) who im­plores her to re­call her ex­pe­ri­ence un­der the Nazis.

Eva’s painful past par­tially re­flects Licht­en­stein’s own fam­ily his­tory. His grand­fa­ther’s shop was at­tacked dur­ing Kristall­nacht be­fore his fa­ther was sent to Bri­tain as a Kin­der­trans­port evac­uee.

The coun­ter­point to Eva’s story is a tale that sees the fam­ily home of an el­derly Pales­tinian (Ifan Huw Dafydd) de­stroyed in or­der to make way for Is­rael’s se­cu­rity wall.

Both sto­ries are worth telling, even if each is dis­torted in the con­flat­ing. Mem­ory’s lessons may be flawed, but those who walked out of the the­atre dur­ing its New York run would have left think­ing that the au­thor is judg­ing Pales­tinian suf­fer­ing at the hands of Is­rael to be equiv­a­lent to Jewish suf­fer­ing un­der the Nazis. If they had stayed for the deeply af­fect­ing fi­nal scene, they would have re­alised that this is un­true. (Tel: 020 7609 1800)

THENOR­MANCON­QUESTS Old Vic, Lon­don SE1

A COUN­TRY house pop­u­lated by three sis­ters and a lovelorn fam­ily so cursed with dis­ap­point­ment and dis­il­lu­sion­ment as to drive its mem­bers to de­spair.

Well, OK, two sis­ters and one sis­terin-law. So not quite Chekhov, but di­rec­tor Matthew Warchus’s won­der­fully per­formed re­vival of Alan Ayckbourn’s 35-year-old comic tril­ogy, with a curly-mopped, shaggy-bearded Stephen Mangan as the charm­ing mon­ster Nor­man who hits on all three women over the course of one week­end, high­lights as much tragedy as com­edy. De­spite the pleas­ing ’70s pe­riod de­tail there is no whiff of dat­ed­ness. This is partly down to Rob How­ell’s in­spired in-th­er­ound de­sign that not only breaths new life into Ayckbourn but into the old fash­ioned Old Vic, which has been turned from a cav­ernous and re­mote venue into a won­der­fully in­ti­mate space. I wish all the Old Vic’s plays could be seen like this.

Like all clas­sic trilo­gies each of Ayckbourn’s plays works well on its own, but like a treat when seen to­gether.

One play in the tril­ogy is set in the din­ing room, an­other in the liv­ing room, and the third in the gar­den. Each de­picts the same events over 48-hours dur­ing which Jes­sica Hynes’s An­nie is so des­per­ate for some hot loving, if she can’t get it from the Ben Mile’s in­fu­ri­at­ingly dif­fi­dent Tom, she will get it from her brother-in-law Nor­man.

You can take your pick from six flaw­less per­for­mances. But other than Mangan, Hynes and Paul Rit­ter’s anorak Reg are out­stand­ing, though Amanda Root as Reg’s up-tight wife Sarah is pretty won­der­ful too.

And artis­tic di­rec­tor Kevin Spacey, who, with the help of Warchus, eas­ily gave Lon­don this year’s most thrilling show with Speed the Plow, is achiev­ing the seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble — re­turn­ing the Old Vic to its hey­day. (Tel: 0870 060 6628)

WASTE Almeida The­atre, Lon­don N1

A NEW gen­er­a­tion is dis­cov­er­ing that Har­ley Granville Barker was one of the coun­try’s most as­tound­ingly as­tute po­lit­i­cal drama­tists — his work has as much to say about to­day’s pol­i­tics as those at the beginning of the last cen­tury.

Orig­i­nally banned by the Lord Cham­ber­lain in 1907, Waste has at its core a scan­dal in­volv­ing high-ly­ing hero MP Henry Tre­bell (Will Keen) laid low by an af­fair and an un­wanted preg­nancy.

Di­rec­tor Sa­muel West could have done his over-long re­vival more good than harm by cut­ting the first act. But the po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ment about the church’s dis­es­tab­lish­ment is thrilling, and Phoebe Ni­cholls as Tre­bell’s loving but sex­u­ally un­in­ter­ested wife out­shines even Keen’s ex­cel­lent per­for­mance. (Tel: 020 7359 4404)

PHOTO: NOBBY CLARK

Ifan Huw Dafydd and Guy Lewis in a con­tro­ver­sial drama which ul­ti­mately doesn’t com­pare Is­raelis to the Nazis

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