King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 4th November 2018
“Thelma Ruby is a pleasure to watch, and there is scope for this to be a topical and engaging revival”
Golda Meir is fighting to “make a new world” in Palestine for her people, the Jewish people. This is a conflict we know well, that still rages today, so this is certainly a topical play that has a clear place in our modern-day political conversation. Adapted from William Gibson’s play ‘Golda’, ‘Momma Golda’ tells the story of Golda Meir, Israel’s first and only female Prime Minister, popularly referred to by many as “the grandmother of the Jewish people”.We follow her as she must make the decisions that begin and shape a new nation.
It is a slow start, a blow by blow exposition of the political climate documented through phone calls and monologue. However as the human element of the story is found, the show warms towards something that is both humorous and moving. Playing Golda Meir, is the remarkable 93 year old Thelma Ruby, who co-wrote the show with her late husband Peter Frye, and toured it internationally with him between the years 1980 and 1988. She is a power house onstage, warm and witty, playful and poignant in her portrayal.
Sean Baker plays opposite her, morphing between the different people in her life, her husband, generals, politicians and so on. It is certainly a challenge to take on and he struggles in the role. He doesn’t seem to be comfortable enough with the text to lend much naturalness or flow to his lines. However hopefully this is something he will settle into as the run progresses because the moments that are convincing work really well, and he lends a lovely vocal tone to his speeches.
The set is simple, a desk, a table, each illuminated in turn (Clancy Flynn), as we move between spaces and years. This is a weak production in many ways, but Thelma Ruby is a pleasure to watch, and there is scope for this to be a topical and engaging revival.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
King’s Head Theatre until 12th November
Two for the Seesaw
Reviewed – 17th July 2018
“a drama that feels outdated, lacking the high stakes needed to make this two-hander as compelling as it could be”
An “intimate character driven comedy-drama” (as described by director Gary Condes), Two For The Seesaw premiered in 1958 and has enjoyed a successful history since then, including a Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine starring film adaptation. Now in the intimate Studio 2 space at Trafalgar Studios, this new staging is painfully faithful to William Gibson’s original script, producing a drama that feels outdated, lacking the high stakes needed to make this two-hander as compelling as it could be.
Jerry (Charles Dorfman), a lawyer from Nebraska, has recently separated from a wife he is financially and emotionally reliant upon and moved to New York. There, he meets aspiring dancer and Bronx girl Gittel (Elsie Bennet). Representing two clashing personalities, the pair seesaw between loving embraces and tempestuous arguments, each keeping secrets from the other until a climactic duel that decides the duo’s fate. The success of this show hinges on powerful and, to use a slightly vague term, truthful performances, which Dorfman and Bennet, though both highly committed to character and given circumstances, fail to provide. We never quite connect with these characters’ drives, or feel what’s at stake, and delivery at times feel one-note, lacklustre and constrained.
The actors aren’t helped by Condes’ direction, who seems intent on making his actors sit and talk over the phone, or sit and talk in person, scene after scene… after scene. Max Dorey’s lovingly naturalistic set design too seems orchestrated to provide areas for actors to rest their tired feet. This prop-heavy design leads to soul-crushingly long blackouts that actually counteract the naturalism and make it harder to reconnect with the setting and situations. Though attractively working to support the story, the set seems to simplify the characters’ differences (Jerry’s apartment is blue! Gittel apartment is pink!) rather than interrogate the play’s themes further.
Revivals work best when we can question older plays from a contemporary point of view, and Condes lets Two For The Seesaw off the hook too easily. For some, some good old fashioned, barbarous exchanges between the sexes and a heartfelt exploration of marriage and power are enough for an entertaining evening of West End theatre. But ‘The Apartment’ this is not.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by James Davidson
Two for the Seesaw
Trafalgar Studios until 4th August