Thursday, 22 January 2015

Review: Bad Jews at the St James Theatre

Bad Jews
St James Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 21st January 2015

Naming a play Bad Jews is a bold thing to do. Posters may have been raising eyebrows around town; however, Bad Jews isn't as controversial as its title suggests. The play, which received its UK premiere at the Ustinov Studio in Bath last year, sees four characters brought together inside a squashed Manhattan apartment.

Daphna, Liam and Jonah are grieving the loss of their grandfather after his funeral (which Liam missed as he was on holiday). The fourth character, Melody (Liam's non-Jewish girlfriend who he met online), finds herself in an awkward situation when the family start arguing over a treasured family heirloom with religious significance and personal meaning. Each wants it for a different reason and struggles to see things from everyone else's perspective.

Joshua Harmon has written four strong and contracting characters which brings an interesting dynamic to the piece. Those who are Jewish or who have Jewish family members (like myself) will be able to admire just how cleverly observed Harmon's piece is.

At one point Daphna is labelled a 'super Jew' whilst Liam is told he is only Jewish when it suits him. I know many Daphnas and many Liams but, for dramatic purposes, in Bad Jews the characters are hugely exaggerated

Michael Longhurst's production features a strong mix of physical and verbal comedy. The text is very funny and well delivered; as the evening progresses events spiral out of control. For me the star of the show was Jenna Augen as Daphna. Her portrayal is intense and in your face, but I also felt a great deal of sympathy for the character.

Ilan Goodman also stands out as Liam, the character may be young but is clearly on the verge of a mid-life crisis. Goodman's portrayal of Liam's tantrum/nervous breakdown was triumphantly hysterical, he received big applause from the press night crowd. Gina Bramhill showcases some superb comical moments as two dimensional Melody whilst Joe Coen plays Jonah, the quietest of the bunch.

The pace dips a couple of times and a few moments are a little cringey, but overall I loved Bad Jews; it hit me with a breath of fresh air, providing an hour and a half of funny yet insightful fun with moments of sincerity.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Bad Jews runs at the St James Theatre until 28th Feburary 2015.
Please visit for info and tickets. 

Photo Credit: Robert Workman

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