Conversations

Date 19th October 2015
Society Jewish Theatre Group Manchester
Venue Manchester Jewish Museum
Type of Production Drama
Director Stacey Friedman

Report

Author: Kevin Proctor

The JTC return to the Jewish Museum for this exclusive production.    

It wasn’t until sitting down and scanning the programme that I realised just how personal this piece was to a member within the JTC. This presentation is the actual story of Trevor Friedman’s experience when he interviewed his late father’s friend, a Holocaust survivor who knew Trevor’s Father from their time shared in the Ghetto. The interview enlightened Trevor to the experiences his Father faced during the war, a part of his life he never had the opportunity to share with his son. The original interview was recorded and later adapted into a radio play and has now progressed to this dramatisation by Stacey Friedman – this productions director and Trevor’s wife.

Trevor himself introduced the play with a few words outlining what we were about to experience.  

Howard Yaffe had the arduous task of portraying Trevor (under the fictional name of David Rendel) who interviews his father’s comrade from the ghetto, Shlomo Weider, played rather impressively by Ivor Farley.    

Ivor’s character had immense pressure in carrying the delivery of this play as he is the only character with all the information to feed the piece. Given the horrific experiences Shlomo had encountered with David’s / Trevor’s father, the level of distress implemented exhaustion as he revisited his past, this was translated incredibly well.   

This was an educational and enlightening presentation, so much so that I’d say it wasn’t really a play – it certainly didn’t feel like one.

Most (if not all) plays with a foundation as mighty as this one are indeed intended to educate its audience, however, such plays are given other elements to separate from the main running theme, particularly if its theme is as intense as this. Other characters had been added, which is completely necessary. Exploring their stories to occasionally switch the focus away from the main plot for a time – some ‘light relief’ as it’s more commonly known – would aid in presenting a piece structured more like a play while giving the audience a rest from its constant heavy going. Something else to focus on would not dilute the attempted effect of the dramatisation nor would it dampen the power which is being created, it would do quite the opposite and help an audience to remain tuned in for its duration rather than the production being so dependent on the bulky and concentrated text.      

Drawing on the ingredients used to craft a play would benefit the delivery in presenting this as a piece of theatre. I’m unsure what the desire is for the continuing journey of this piece (if any) but I’d try to see if there is a way to eliminate the reading of the text as part of the performance as this presented a barrier between the actor and the audience. I’d want to hear those words and that incredible story feel more natural and would want to experience the thought processes of the characters which are not possible if the performance remains as listening to someone read.  

The most dominant moments of the whole piece happened when Ivor (Shlomo) stood and spoke of his fear, suffering and experiences. These moments had been separated out from the rest of the play by ditching the prop script and with the help of lighting we were drawn in to the more studied elements of the play.    

Adding a smidgen of light relief was a very colourful individual. This character certainly aided this play and was indeed a welcomed breath of fresh air. To incorporate a character with no emotional connection to the intense theme allowed us to slightly break away from it, this was Jennie Goldstone as Stephanie Edlund, never breaking her character she was enticing and made the absolute most of this immaterial yet essential character.        

Liz Rueben & Jaysen Lewin as Deborah Weider & Joe Rendel both played characters of the next generation who’re also learning of their predecessor’s time in the Ghetto, often appearing a little over dramatic to the point it seemed over forced and slightly false would be my only criticism here.    

We don’t see enough theatre of this nature in our game, people drawing from their own life experiences to create an original play is almost unheard of when looking at community theatre. For an amateur theatre company to have the skill set to be able to attempt such a challenge within their membership is notably encouraging!