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Road, who stabs Rosie in the groin with a needle full of anaesthetic.
It is in this state of unconscious hallucination that Rosie searches back in time for the identity of her father, which Irie (Ayesha Antoine), her single-parent mother has never divulged. Accompanied by Mad Mary like a sort of Dickensian Ghost of Secrets Past, they regress back through the ’80s and ’70s, to Rosie’s grandfathers at the end of the Second World War. Tank-driver Archie and wireless operator Samad, a Muslim Bengal Lancer were in the Balkans when they took into custody a French Nazi doctor who experimented on children in Auschwitz. But most of the flashback action centres on Rosie’s mum when she was a schoolgirl in the 1980s. And it’s here that modern London, its tensions and vibrancy, begins to emerge. Such is Smith’s sweep. Yet Stephen Sharkey’s adaptation of the 542-page novel fails to match this ambition. Indhu Rubasingham’s production has an earthy, street feel as it swooshes its way through time. And Michele Austin’s Mad Mary is the pick of some good performances. But Paul Englishby’s score is too ordinary to justify the musical interludes, and although I’d never want to choose recorded music over live, in this case tracks from the various periods in which this show is set would have been a lot more evocative.
The result feels a bit like a local show for local people, which of course is a perfectly fine thing to be. But Smith’s novel deserves something deeper, more profound and more moving, The Lion & Unicorn Theatre,
IWORRY SLIGHTLY for Saul Reichlin’s one-man show of Sholom Aleichem stories. It runs for about a month at a little-known Kentish Town pub theatre. A month is a lot of seats in the theatre. Not that Reichlin doesn’t have and deserve a loyal following.
With only a jug of water and a samovar on stage for company, the veteran actor tells Aleichem’s stories as the author himself, with a wry smile and a good deal of charisma. We are in the shtetl of Kasrilevke somewhere “on the western fringes of the Russian Empire” which Aleichem (born Solomon Rabinowitz) visited looking for material.
Alecheim is a master of whimsical character studies— from the extremely good sock sellers who visited him after he checked into the local “cheap and classy” hotel, to the man who explains how he became a milkman.
The latter is a gloriously crafted tale and Reichlin tells it beautifully. On its own it would make a lovely companion piece to go with the forthcoming Menier Chocolate Factory production of Fiddler on the Roof. Reichlin as Aleichem being Tevye in a corner of the stage before the great wheels of Nunn’s production begin to turn. The perfect venue.
Michele Austin as Mad Mary