Yid­dish trea­sure’s golden re­turn

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - THEATRE JOHN NATHAN

Fin­bor­ough Theatre


King of adapted by former RSC lit­er­ary man­ager Colin Cham­bers for what is prob­a­bly the play’s Bri­tish pre­miere, is set in the Rus­sian Pale in the early 1900s. Judke, the sim­ple, some­what dis­abled son of the shtetl’s grave-dig­ger, re­turns home with sev­eral gold coins af­ter bury­ing his beloved dog. In­stead of hand­ing over the coins to his es­tranged par­ents he gives them to his sis­ter Tille who goes on a shop­ping spree in the hope that fine clothes and a dowry will find her a match. She may be right.

News soon spreads that the gravedig­ger’s fam­ily has come into money, and, af­ter a visit from a matchmaker who at­tempts to marry Tille off to an el­i­gi­ble bach­e­lor, the home — and the Fin­bor­ough’s tiny stage — is soon filled with all man­ner of op­por­tunists ask­ing for do­na­tions to this char­ity or that.

An­other vis­i­tor threat­ens the fam­ily with le­gal ac­tion if it is shown that the trea­sure has been found in his field; while the head of the com­mu­nity also wants a share of the booty.

The prob­lem is that the ex­is­tence of trea­sure is based on the as­sump­tion that there will be more gold where Judke buried his dog and, af­ter one of his funny turns, the poor boy can’t re­mem­ber where his put his dog’s corpse.

It’s an aw­fully man­nered set-up. And al­though Alice Malin’s pro­duc­tion is strong on at­mos­phere, Pin­ski’s first act is al­most fa­tally la­bo­ri­ous. Char­ac­ters end­lessly re­peat their anx­i­eties and do silly things in or­der to fur­ther the plot.

But then some­thing strange and won­der­ful hap­pens. The play breaks out of the grave-dig­ger’s home and into the ceme­tery where the en­tire town dig for the myth­i­cal trove. And then the nar­ra­tive shifts again to an en­tirely dif­fer­ent, even spir­i­tual di­men­sion that sees the town’s dead pass judg­ment on the liv­ing. The bal­ance of the play is still far too heav­ily weighted to­wards the in­ert first act. And for too long Trea­sure ap­pears a de­servedly buried piece of theatre. But it’s well worth stick­ing with this play un­til it re­veals it­self to be, at least in part, dra­matic gold.


Go­ing for gold: Olivia Bern­stone and Fiz Mar­cus in

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