Scene from the filming of ‘My Brother’s Keeper’
This year, the hallowed Glastonbury music festival is taking a little break. But summer festival lovers need not fear, because 6th August marks the beginning of the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Jewish content of the festival is usually eclectic, but this year is undoubtedly more so than ever.For anyone interested in finding out more about what is today the distant memory of Afghan Jews, Apikoros Theatre Company is attempting to bring it to the forefront with their darkly comic ‘My Brother’s Keeper’. Apikoros calls itself “a new-writing theatre company, which aims to make theatre that asks questions”, and their play tells the true tale of the last two remaining Jews in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. The men harbour a bitter hatred for one another – born out of their enforced co-habitation in a small, dilapidated Kabul synagogue – and spend the duration of the play feuding in traditional fiery Jewish fashion.
Young playwright Michael J Flexer told us that he had “tried to infuse the play with that feisty yet phlegmatic Jewish gallows humour”, and that he wants the play to get across the idiocy of religious intolerance: “The comedy comes from the fact that, in this case, there was only one religion involved!” However, the comedy runs under a disturbing reality: the two men were taken hostage by the Taliban, who brutally tortured them and confiscated their much argued-over Sefer Torah.
We were also informed that, in the process of producing the play, the real sole surviving Afghan Jew – Zablon Simintov – had been contacted, to inform him of the staging of his life story. His true dislike of his housemate, Yitzchak Levy, came out last January when he found him dead on the floor of the synagogue: “I’m not sad about that.”
Religious intolerance is the order of the day elsewhere at the festival, too, and most prominently in ‘The Black Jew Dialogues’. It’s a hotchpotch of improvisations, video and skits, and essentially concerns the parallel prejudices experienced by black people and Jews. When two men – one black, one Jewish - meet in a hotel, their animated discussions on racial inequality span three whole days, and take them from “the Egypt of the Pharaohs… through Africa, colonial times, to present-day America”, and are peppered with “American rednecks, slavery, bar-mitzvahs and chicken liver”, surely making it a must-see.
“ ‘The Black Jew Dialogues’ identifies that there is common ground for all races, all religions, all people – and, most importantly, that there is humour in our common ground and our differences,” said Larry Jay Tish, one of the two actors in the play, when describing the immortalisation of this series of conversations he himself had with his friend and co-star, Rob Jones. “Racism is abhorrent, illogical, and viewed in the right way… hilarious.”
Also with a contribution to Edinburgh’s theatrical feast is new Jewish News columnist Caroline Gold - in the form of an episodic look at (partly) her own experiences in a rehabilitation clinic. Having checked herself into the Priory twice, she saw the huge potential for humour in the scenario.
Satirising both soap operas and the ‘rehab fad’ that seems to have infected today’s celebrity population, ‘Clinically Famous’ – acted by Natalie Haverstock – has been called “comparable to Victoria Wood and Julie Walters”. The episodes chronicle fame-crazed Beverley, whose downfall takes her from adored soap star to “drunk from hell”. Caroline, writer of such comedy gems as ‘Heated Rollers’ (Radio 2) and ‘Footage and Mouth’ (BBC TV), talked about using the medium of comedy to ease a difficult situation: “This piece was me making something positive and joyous out of a very painful chapter in my life. As such I would like it to do good for others still suffering the terrible curse that is depression.”
More inspirational women than Caroline Gold’s Beverley are in the line-up in Edinburgh as well. Martin Sherman’s ‘Rose’ is an account of how the events of the twentieth century took one spirited Jewish woman from “a tiny Russian village… to Warsaw’s ghettos and a ship called The Exodus, and finally to the boardwalks of Atlantic city, the Arizona canyons and salsa-flavoured nights in Miami beach.” The part of Rose is played by Fiona York, whose performance has been described as “a stunning tour de force”. The play’s 1999 premiere at London’s National Theatre was a great success, and it now looks set to be one of the highlights of the festival.
And that’s probably enough hard-hitting theatre to last you the whole three weeks. But if a music-related event sounds more appealing, or at least slightly less taxing, try David Vernon and Dick Lee’s show. Simply entitled ‘David Vernon and Dick Lee’, it is an international plethora of tunes, played enthusiastically on the accordion and the clarinet. Although the show includes French and Balkan melodies, as well as a whole host of others, it does feature a Jewish hora! Enjoy.
- Eva Schloss: Learning to live again after the Shoah - 18/04/13
- A day in the life of the Warsaw Ghetto - 18/04/13
- Redisblonde hope to rock Teen Star regionals - 18/04/13
- Ishtar, the Madonna of the Middle East - 11/04/13
- Our future is bleak, says The Gatekeepers director Dror Moreh - 11/04/13
- The place where it's yesterday... EVERY day! - 11/04/13
- Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller - 04/04/13
- Angie's Festival Survival Guide - 22/03/13
- Dwarfs who walked tall at Auschwitz - 21/03/13
- Did You Spend the '80s at Edgware Station? - 21/03/13
- The girl who confronted Nazi 'monsters' within - 28/02/13
- David's The Wandering Israeli! - 28/02/13
- Why Roy's Still Top of the Pops - 28/02/13
- Radlett celebrates Bakis - 28/02/13
- The Truth Is False - 28/02/13