Tag Archives: David Guest

Not Quite Jerusalem

★★★½

Finborough Theatre

Not Quite Jerusalem

Not Quite Jerusalem

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 6th March 2020

★★★½

 

“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

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Lad

Lad

★★★★★

VAULT Festival 2020

Lad

Lad

Forge – The Vault

Reviewed – 4th March 2020

★★★★★

 

“a rollicking Irish comedy with the power to evoke hilarity, tension and sadness in equal measure”

 

Pinocchio had Jiminy Cricket, King Lear had the Fool, Lyra Belacqua had Pantalaimon. In Alan Mahon and Rhys Dunlop’s play “Lad” Steve has a cocky conscience who is more likely to suggest giving a little wolf whistle and tempting women with the contents of his codpiece than offering sound advice.

For while Steve is sensitive, plagued by self-doubt and considerate of women his still, small voice wants him to be one of the lads, think about sex constantly, grow some balls and man up.

After their recent thought-provoking production of “Flights” at the Clapham Omnibus Theatre, One Duck Theatre have this shorter offering at the VAULT Festival which is equally about masculinity, what makes men tick and how the company they keep can rob them of feelings, emotions, common sense and decency.

It’s a rollicking Irish comedy with the power to evoke hilarity, tension and sadness in equal measure helped along by two star performances by the writers and some understanding and creative touches from director Thomas Martin.

Mahon plays Steve, the quiet and likeable supermarket shelf filler preparing a best man’s speech for his friend’s wedding. There’s a mysterious undercurrent to his character as we discover he was formerly an accountant and has clearly lost some laddish friends owing to an event in the past for which he is reluctant to apologise.

As Steve tries to pluck up the confidence to date the maid of honour and, in parallel, applies for a job as a tour guide at the local zoo, his larger than life conscience (think Deadpool with voices that are constantly cocksure and unpleasantly self-gratifying) encourages him along a dark path of bad behaviour. Dunlop is wonderfully crude and uninhibited as the sort of mate who is the life and soul of every party but who always manages to persuade you to cross boundaries and go that step too far when it comes to being acceptable.

There is one piece of inwardly lit set (designed by Dunlop, Mahon and Martin) which serves as everything from a pub table to a urinal – though on closer inspection you realise that its interesting shape symbolises the male sexuality that throbs throughout the drama. (A voice warns us at the start that if we are offended by the set it is going to be a long show.)

Pulsating lighting (Cillian McNamara) and sound (Ekaterina Solomatina) move the action along swiftly and nimbly, reflecting changes of location and mood easily.

“Lad” offers a sound contemporary reflection on boyish culture, raising questions about unchecked attitudes to women and life in general, and there are quite rightly significant moments of embarrassment and sadness as the nice guy yields to temptations.

Yet this is not a play without hope. Ideal for this type of small-scale venue it has big issues to raise as it questions matters of manhood, the building of character and just how hard it can be to fit in.

 

Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Keith Dixon 

 

VAULT Festival 2020

 

 

Click here to see all our reviews from VAULT Festival 2020