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The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - Sholom Ale­ichem, In The Old Coun­try

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.

PHOTO: MARK DOUET

Michele Austin as Mad Mary

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