PRE­VIEW BY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER Mer­cury rises as LJCC reaps Fringe ben­e­fits

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

HAT DO you g e t w h e n y o u m i x Fred­die Mer­cury with a neu­rotic Jewish mother named Rivki Pashin­sky and her rabbi son with a child­ish se­cret? Add a tu­mul­tuous day for a sleep-de­prived para­medic who is slowly los­ing the plot and you have a choice of the­atri­cal view­ing at the Lon­don Jewish Cul­tural Cen­tre, which is host­ing both A Man­cu­nian Rhap­sody and An In­som­niac’s Guide to Am­bu­lances dur­ing next week’s Cam­den Fringe Fes­ti­val.

Through her pro­duc­tion, com­pany Time2Shine, In­som­ni­acs Guide wri­ter­di­rec­tor Rachel Creeger has forged a strong part­ner­ship be­tween the Fringe and the LJCC. The 41-year-old came up with the idea for the play after spend­ing sleep­less nights in con­ver­sa­tion with friend and real-life para­medic Aryeh Meyer. From Meyer’s anec­dotes — and Creeger’s mem­o­ries of her time as a so­cial worker — the plot took shape.

“It’s like a homage to the am­bu­lance ser­vices,” she says. “Ev­ery­thing we fea­ture was ei­ther ex­pe­ri­enced by Aryeh or my­self, or re­ported to us. I spent ages meet­ing paramedics and find­ing out what their most ridicu­lous call-outs were.

WSome things are funny, some things are sad. We re­ally wanted to cap­ture the au­then­tic­ity of the pro­fes­sion.” There is crowd in­volve­ment in the pro­duc­tion — “I don’t like keep­ing the au­di­ence sep­a­rate be­cause it feels strange to pre­tend they are not sit­ting in the room with you. “There are times in the show when the house lights are up and the cast are talk­ing to you. In an­other scene, au­di­ence mem­bers are asked to call the paramedics and re­port 999 in­ci­dents. Things are dif­fer­ent ev­ery night, which adds to the drama. We’ve had a re­ally pos­i­tive au­di­ence re­sponse so far.”

Creeger says that be­ing an Orthod o x Jew has not held her back in main­stream theatre — and it’s the same for South Hamp­stead shul-goer De­bra Tam­mer, whose mu­si­cal com­edy A Man­cu­nian Rhap­sody is her Fringe de­but.

“T h i r t y - nine go­ing on 15” Tamme r s a y s h e r s h o w com­bines the mu­si­cof QueenandJewish­stereo­types. “It is all about this woman called Rivki who is try­ing to es­cape the do­mes­tic­ity of her life while pre­par­ing for Shabbes din­ner. Like many re­li­gious peo­ple, she has a se­cret guilty plea­sure — hers is 1980s mu­sic.”

Sweep­ing her away across the stage with broom in hand, Tam­mer re­places the lyrics to I Want To Break Free with I Want to Clean House, rais­ing ques­tions along the way about the seem­ing mun­dan­ity of re­li­gious life.“It’s some­thing I’m so fa­mil­iar with. As a peo­ple, we are able to laugh at our­selves and I think that when you miss that, you are miss­ing a trick. There is no sub­ject that’s off lim­its from talk­ing about — al­though my mother would dis­agree.”

The clas­si­cally trained ac­tress, who stud­iedattheLon­donA­cade­myof Mu­sic and Dra­matic Art, likes “to do com­edy with a mes­sage. That’s why I have on my flyer the line, ‘It’s a kind of tragic’. My char­ac­ters are funny but they are also flawed, just like the rest of us. We can all take some­thing away from it. After all, who doesn’t love Fred­die Mer­cury?”­den­

A scene from An In­som­ni­acs Guide and ( inset) De­bra Tam­mer

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