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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


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Will – 4 Stars




Eight Lost Years of Young William Shakespeare’s Life

Rose Playhouse

Reviewed – 29th March 2018


“What unfolds on the stage is absolutely magical”


Nobody knows what happened to William Shakespeare between the years 1585 and 1592, the so called ‘lost years’. There is no documentary evidence of his life during this period of time, so consequently a type of mythology has developed around these mysterious years. We do not know when or why he left Stratford-upon-Avon for London, or what he was doing before becoming a professional actor and dramatist in the capital.

Many people have their favourite version of the story, including Victoria Baumgartner who has written and directed “Will – or Eight Lost Years of Young William Shakespeare’s Life”. Presented by ‘Will & Compagnie’ in association with ‘Unfolds Theatre’ at the Rose Playhouse, these popular theories are explored with a compellingly fresh approach. It is hard to categorise the piece – it hovers between a play and performance art – as it switches between fantasy and reality and takes liberties with chronology. But that is not the point at all. What unfolds on the stage is absolutely magical.

The cast of five take us on Will’s journey, beginning with the young Shakespeare, newlywed to Anne, in the peaceful town of Stratford-upon-Avon. But, for Shakespeare, there is something missing, and his dreams and obsessions force him to leave his ordinary yet comfortable life behind. Sam Veck, as Shakespeare, is a revelation. In a dazzlingly natural performance he tackles the sense of period with a rock star’s sensibilities (a kind of Shakespeare meets Jim Morrison) capturing the obsessive qualities of a man dreaming of words nobody else can find.

Katherine Moran plays his wife, Anne, with touching honesty, relinquishing her husband. We can never really be sure why Shakespeare left his wife and family, but it is reasonable to assume that there must have been a strong reason, and the script cites the possibility that he was in trouble with the law and had to flee to escape punishment. It is quite heart wrenching to witness the separation, but moments of drama are expertly interspersed with comedy; particularly when we meet the ‘Queen’s Men’, a travelling group of actors led by Richard Burbage and his fictitious sister, Olivia (Ronnie Yorke and Beatrice Lawrence respectively). There’s a hilarious moment that suggests Shakespeare’s own over the top performance persuades the Burbages to recruit him as a writer rather than an actor.

The narrative would not be complete without Kit Marlowe and the Earl of Southampton. Charlie Woodward doubles as both characters, sometimes switching seamlessly and instantly from one to the other. Again, Baumgartner’s writing skilfully gives credence to the speculation of the relationships, but it is Veck and Woodward’s outstanding performances that spell out the understated homoeroticism.

A top notch cast indeed, who manage the shifts between fantasy and reality, past and present, fact and conjecture, tragedy and comedy. The play is bursting with echoes to Shakespeare’s future works. We see the fictitious inspiration to some of his greatest lines. We laugh at Shakespeare’s incarceration in an Italian prison, we cry at his reaction to his son’s death and then laugh at his failed audition for the ‘Queen’s Men’, but all the while we rejoice that these and many of the other events depicted may, or very possibly may not, have contributed to the subsequent thirty-nine plays he wrote. Shakespeare began by dreaming of words nobody else could find. He ended up adding nearly two thousand to the English language.

This play is an ingenious celebration of that fact: delighfully clever yet beguiling and moving. A real gem, and perfectly suited to the historical significance and resonance of the Rose Playhouse.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Erin Lawson



Rose Playhouse until 21st April



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