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Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Craig’

I’m not being perverse by reviewing the last night; as I was travelling for most of the run, it was the first chance I had to see it, and I’m glad I did.

Ryan Craig’s family drama takes us through fifteen years, from the late 60’s to the early 80’s. Widow Yetta Solomon is the matriarch of an East London Jewish family whose business is in ‘rubber goods’. Both her sons, Nat and Leo, are in the business, but they are forever fighting. Leo is intent on escape, but Yetta always has a trick up her sleeve to stop him. Leo’s son Micky doesn’t want to join the business, but Yetta draws him in and eventually he, and other grandson Gerard, are involved, fighting just like their dads. There are references to real events of the period, which was indeed a fascinating one.

Yetta is full of contradictions. She is benevolent to workers like Monty and Rosa, until they cross her. Everything she does is to keep the family together and the business alive, but we eventually learn just how manipulative she is and just how dirty her tricks have been. It’s a commanding performance by Sara Kestelman, owning the stage as she does her family and her staff. Louis Hillyer and Dorian Lough are very good as the bickering brothers, as are Callum Woodhouse, Jack Bannon and Callie Cooke as the next generation. Ashley Martin-Davies’ two-story set is full of period detail and you can almost smell the rubber. 

I really took against Craig’s 2009 play Our Class and wasn’t at all keen on his 2011 play The Holy Rosenbergs – https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/the-holy-rosenbergs and this one becomes a bit too melodramatic at times, with some of the twists and turns a touch contrived, but it’s a big improvement on his previous work.

A meaty play with a superb late career performance by Sara Kestleman at it’s core.

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This play starts well. We are in the home of North London kosher caterers on the eve of  the funeral of their son who has died fighting for Israel in Gaza. The Rabii calls to warn the family that he anticipates protestors – other Jews angry at the boy’s sisters’  involvement in the UN investigation of that very same conflict. The trouble is, playwright Ryan Craig then throws in the kitchen sink!

The play has its moments, but it is too contrived and therefore often implausible. We move from the set-up to soap opera to a serious political debate to melodrama. Along the way, we get business problems, relationship issues and a few too many patronising history lessons. The only unpredictable thing in the evening is the arrival of daughter Ruth’s boss Stephen  – though this is also somewhat implausible, it does provide an opportunity for a reasonably objective political debate. The best drawn characters are the sister and other brother, both played well by Susannah Wise and Alex Waldmann. The problem with the rest, particularly Henry Goodman’s father and Tilly Tremayne’s mother, is that they are stereotypes.

You’d think the staging in-the-round (you’re a fly on the wall of the living room with visible corridors leading to the rest of the house) would provide an intimacy and heighten your engagement with the story and its characters, but I’m afraid it doesn’t. I wasn’t in the slightest bit moved or emotionally engaged, even from the front row in its most heartfelt moments. I found the frequent Jewish words and references a rather clumsy way of engaging a largely Jewish audience whilst making the non-Jewish audience feel excluded.

Yet another disappointing new play at the National, I’m afraid.

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