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Not Quite Jerusalem


Finborough Theatre

Not Quite Jerusalem

Not Quite Jerusalem

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 6th March 2020



“Joe McArdle and Ronnie Yorke provide a terrific double act as the loud-mouthed Dave and Pete, proving the traditional loutish view of the English abroad”


Forty years ago the ground-breaking Finborough Theatre opened its doors for the first time. To celebrate its anniversary it presents the first new UK production in 40 years of Paul Kember’s award-winning 1980 comedy-drama “Not Quite Jerusalem.”

First seen at the Royal Court the play has some staying power, not least because it proves that nothing changes: the shock is that it could have been written yesterday.

Four young people escape a divided England and lives they would rather forget for an Israeli kibbutz, which they think will be a fun working holiday with sun, sex and sightseeing. In reality they upset their hosts, alienate their fellow kibbutzniks and suffer hard labour in the blistering heat.

On the surface the play is a perfectly respectable comedy drama with a romantic interest, comic characters and a taste of what was, for many young people of the time, an exciting and exotic way of taking time out discovering the world.

Taking that side alone it is true that the piece feels a little dated. But what director Peter Kavanagh and the six-strong cast achieve is to tease out the shadowy heart of the work, which reflects on the sensibilities of life in England’s green and pleasant land and to glimpse ourselves as others see us in an uncomfortable culture clash.

The four youngsters couldn’t be more different: there’s Mike, the laid back Cambridge student who simply walked out of his course and out of contact with his parents; Carrie, the nervous aspiring artist with issues; Dave, the vulgar northerner; and Essex lad Pete, constantly keen to check out the local talent. Also at hand are the kibbutz manager Ami and a fiery and plain-speaking Israeli girl Gila.

Kember doesn’t make it easy to like any of these characters and none of them is particularly well-drawn apart from Mike. So it is to the credit of the performers that they manage to drag the play away from its regular big speeches and navel-gazing to present genuine people in an authentic setting with all too real problems.

Ryan Whittle’s languid Mike starts out by sharing the laziness of the other Brits, but we gain insight into his passions and patriotism. He is well-balanced by the most interesting character, Ailsa Joy’s spirited Gila, and the careful contrast of their performances make their tentative romance all the more credible as both so fiercely represent their cultures and homelands.

Joe McArdle and Ronnie Yorke provide a terrific double act as the loud-mouthed Dave and Pete, proving the traditional loutish view of the English abroad. Their version of “Underneath the Arches,” as part of an entertainment where all the kibbutzniks have to perform something that represents their country, is a comic delight with an ending that says all there is to say about how disgruntled and browbeaten Englanders see their identity.

Miranda Braun does well with the slightly-written Carrie, the undeserving butt of so many of Dave and Pete’s remarks, though it’s hard to deal with the character’s inconsistency from one scene to the next. Russell Bentley holds things nicely together as a calm Ami.

The staging has seating on three sides which gives a suitably claustrophobic feel to the kibbutz set (Ceci Calf) and there are some beautiful moments in the lighting (Ryan Stafford), particularly when the Middle Eastern sun beams life, light and promise through the wooden slats.

“Not Quite Jerusalem” has not quite survived the test of time, but still manages to come across thanks to this production as a disturbing and challenging state of the nation commentary.


Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Kirsten McTernan


Not Quite Jerusalem

Finborough Theatre until 28th March


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Time Is Love | ★★★½ | January 2019
A Lesson From Aloes | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Maggie May     | ★★★★ | March 2019
Blueprint Medea | ★★★ | May 2019
After Dark; Or, A Drama Of London Life | ★★★★ | June 2019
Go Bang Your Tambourine | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Niceties | ★★★ | October 2019
Chemistry | ★★★ | November 2019
Scrounger | ★★★★ | January 2020
On McQuillan’s Hill | ★★★★ | February 2020


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The Three Musketeers – 3 Stars


The Three Musketeers

St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

Reviewed – 8th August 2018


“the rip-roaring finale in the church brought the audience to its feet in an explosion of cheers and applause”


This is Iris Theatre’s 10th season in the gardens of St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden. They produce two shows over the course of the summer – a Shakespeare and a family show – and this year’s swashbuckling adventure from 17th century France is a perfect confection for a family night out in London on a summer’s evening. The action takes place in three different playing arenas in the gardens themselves, and also moves into the church. Although moving between locations couldn’t help but slow things down a bit, the delight of the different mise-en-scènes more than made up for it, and the rip-roaring finale in the church brought the audience to its feet in an explosion of cheers and applause.

Dumas’ original novel is a behemoth of a book, and credit must go to Daniel Winder, Iris Theatre’s Artistic Director, for distilling it into a largely comprehensible two hour play. The younger children in the audience would certainly have found elements of the story confusing, in particular differentiating between the the national conflict – England vs France – and the French religious conflict – Catholic vs Huguenot – but the pursuit of the Queen’s diamonds was a good thread for them to follow, with excellent visual cues to help them through the more labyrinthine plot developments. Paul-Ryan Carberry’s sure-handed direction steered a steady course throughout, using elements of slapstick and pantomime with a deft touch to balance the darker themes and more baroque plot twists. In addition, Winder’s decision to turn d’Artagnan into a woman worked brilliantly, and the young female musketeer was a fantastic counterpoint to the magnificently malevolent Milady, played with immense hauteur and brio by Ailsa Joy.

Working in the open air in the middle of Central London is immensely challenging for an actor, and the predominantly young cast attacked the task with relish, and they were aided too by Adam Welsh’s excellent sound design. Inevitably, many of the performances were painted with pretty broad strokes – open air theatre is rarely the place to go for subtlety and nuance – but there was a terrific ensemble spirit, and some excellent multi-role work too, particularly from the charismatic Stephan Boyce (Planchet/Treville/Rochefort/Lord Winter) and the splendidly entertaining Elliot Liburd (Porthos/King of France).

Finally, special mention must go to Roger Bartlett, the production’s fight director. No evening spent in the company of the musketeers would be complete without some serious sword play, and Iris Theatre did not disappoint in this regard. There is something rather wonderful about hearing the church clock striking and seeing the garden’s white roses glowing in the dusk, whilst watching a mighty clash of swords, and knowing that 21st century London nightlife continues all around. A unique treat; there to be savoured.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Nick Rutter


The Three Musketeers

St Paul’s Church until 2nd September



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