Bad Jews – Theatre Royal Haymarket

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Bad Jews is a comedy which was written by Joshua Harmon.  Following popular runs in the Ustinav Studio, Bath and the St James Theatre, it has returned for a strictly limited 6-week run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 8th February.

Bad Jews tells the story of three of Poppy’s grandchildren grieving after his death. Each of them have their own unique ways of dealing with their loss and expressing their feelings. Daphna and Jonah have been sharing his studio apartment for the past few days leading up to the funeral.

Jonah’s older brother, Liam, arrives back from skiing in Aspen with his girlfriend, Melody, and is forced to stay in the studio too due to the number of guests and limited space in their parents’ home. Liam was unable to make it back in time for the funeral.   Daphna and Liam have an unfriendly relationship and are at each other’s throats.  The irony is that they both make epic speeches about how much they dislike the other while the other is not in the room and rope Jonah into helping them “quash” any conversation about who gets their grandfather’s chai (a gold necklace with a pendant of the Jewish symbol for life).

The whole play builds to a massive farce with the discussion of who gets to keep Poppy’s chai. Unknown to Daphna, who wants the chai for herself and believes she has the most right to it because she is the most devout of the three, Liam already has the chai to propose to his girlfriend. The significance of this is that Poppy had the chai through the Holocaust and kept it in his mouth. Then, when he came to America and met his future wife, Poppy didn’t have any money to buy her a ring and so gave her the only piece of jewellery he owned and she wore it until he could afford a ring.  By the end of the discussion, which quickly escalated into an argument, Melody figures out Liam is going to propose to her before he does. Daphna is outraged that this meaningful piece of jewellery was placed around a non-Jewish, Delawarean girl.  Jonah also feels that the chai should be kept in the immediate family.  Daphna tackles her and rips it off Melody’s neck, who forces Liam to take her to the hospital even though she is not at injured.

The closing scene of the play, is breathtaking and shocks the audience changing the previously comic tone of the show.

Daphna, played by Ailsa Joy (Pride and Prejudice, TimePlays, The Wind and the Willows), is kind of the outsider of the trio due to her neurotic nature and strong opinions. Liam describes her as a “Super Jew” and an “Uber Jew” because she is fanatically religious and very knowledgeable. Joy gives a fantastic performance as Daphna, carrying off the character’s rapid dialogue with ease. Liam, played by Ilan Goodman (Dinner with Saddam, Dorian Gray, Austentatous), is the older brother and is very wealthy which he perhaps takes for granted.  Liam doesn’t see any problem with a non-Jewish person having Poppy’s chai, only seeing the romantic side and not the traditional argument.

Jonah, played by Jos Slovick (The Snow Queen, Once, Guys and Dolls), who initially seems to be the least affected by his grandfather’s death, appearing quite uncaring and preferring to play his video games and fiddle on his laptop.  While Daphna and Liam are fighting, he is put in the middle of them and he repeatedly states he doesn’t want it and to leave him out of it. Slovick plays the reserved, complex Jonah very well.

Melody, played by Antonia Kinlay (Lady Anna: All of Sea, The Three Lions, A History of Falling Things), is Liam’s girlfriend from Delaware who majored in opera. One of the highlights of the show is when she is asked to sing to soothe Daphna’s nerves after Liam’s outburst. Her singing is nothing short of awful but it’s hilarious.  Melody is kind of a fish out of water because she is not part of the family and the only non-Jew.  Kinlay is wonderful in the role, playing Melody with a persistent politeness, despite continuous grilling and insulting remarks from Daphna.

Overall it was a very funny play.  Bad Jews is showing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 19th March 2016. For more information about your visit to the Theatre Royal Haymarket visit West End Theatre Guide’s website: http://www.westendtheatreguide.london/west-end-theatres/theatre-royal-haymarket/

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