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JEW…ish presented by Unleash the Llama & Zoe Weldon

Picture this, January 2020 and I’m sat in the Kings Head Theatre watching my first performance of the year. It a one-act, two-hander called Jew…ish. The play impresses me and sets the standard for the 200 odd other shows I’m expecting to see over the next 12 months. And then, coronavirus hits, the country goes into lockdown (and lockdowns 2 and 3) and the theatres go dark. So no more live shows for Tezza. However, it takes a lot to keep creatives down and, after an interval, shows start popping up online. Some are just films of live performances taken during their run, some are new works that have been written to take advantage of the technology, and others, Such as Jew…ish are new versions that have been re-worked and filmed for release. So, 15 months after seeing the original, I sat in front of my PC to see how the transition from stage to screen worked for the show.

JEW...ishThe play is the story of a ‘couple’. Max (Saul Boyer) and TJ (Edie Newman). They met at university and have been in an on-off-on again relationship ever since. Max is a sort of stand-up comedian and part-time barrister while TJ is a physical performance artist. As far as their relationship goes well, they are polyamorous and enjoy wild side sexual exploits, including something called ‘pegging’ (word of advice, do not Google this word. If you know what it means then fine. If not, then just walk away now), and about a bit of BDSM. But during one of their games, things went wrong, and Max and TJ are going through one of their ‘off again’ episodes. Anything else I can tell you about the two of them? Oh yes, Max is Jewish, with the appropriate huge and interfering family, and TJ is not and is convinced Max’s family hate her. We follow their story, from therapy to a wedding, a funeral, and the most awkward meal ever, and live their lives for a year which ends with one question, together or not?

First things first. Yes, the show really translates well from stage to screen. Filmed as a theatrical production, there is a real feeling of being in a very quiet but attentive audience as I was watching the performance. This production, under the direction of Kennedy Bloomer and Toby Hampton, really captures the essence of a theatre experience. The camera work is there to give slightly different views, but all of the angles feel natural, and the camera adds a dimension. Such as the trips in the car, which are way more fun when you can see them properly, and the elimination of bad sightlines.

Saul Boyer and Poppy Damon have updated the script, so the references are all nicely relevant and each character is established very, very quickly. Max, with his wonderful song “I’m, a Jew”, and TJ’s opening line “This is a satire on geopolitics and the excesses of late capitalism, through the medium of interpretive dance” really gives the audience an immediate insight into the two protagonists. And the writing really, which is enhanced by some excellent acting, goes from strength to strength. The scene with Dr Lionel is a perfect example. The script, which tells us so much not only about the relationship but about the people within it is just spot on and there is a lovely flow between Saul and Edie talking separately but together. There’s such a lot to take in about Max and TJ. Dr Lionel really earned his money in that session. Given their difference, you might be wondering how TJ and Max ever got together or what, apart from sex, the attraction between them is. Really, on paper, they should not be anywhere near each other romantically, but somehow they are and this is due to both the writing and the acting.

Speaking of which, Edie and Saul have real chemistry that works on every level. Both TJ and Max could be very annoying millennials of the worst type but instead, you find yourself rooting for them and wanting them both to be happy – whether that’s together or apart I’m not going to say. The actors have such a rapport that you could imagine if one of them went completely off script and started ad-libbing, the other would be able to cope and respond in character.

The play is set within a conventional stage with a minimal set, by Sorcha Corcoran, which mainly revolved around two small velvet chairs and, again enhances the theatrical feel to the production as a whole. The filming felt seamless, though I did spot one continuity error, but am not going to say what it was at it had no effect on the production or my enjoyment of it (I only notice these things because I am very sad with no life).

Summing up then, I’ve seen Jew…ish performed via two different mediums now and really loved it both times. The writing and acting are superb, and I was very invested in the lives of TJ and Max. This is one of those stories where I really want to know what happens after the lights go down, and it’s a great example of how live theatre can be translated to the film world.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

It was a total nightmare from beginning to end. The worst thing is, I think I learned guilt from him. Can you learn guilt?

The hilarious and twisted millennial romcom that absolutely no one asked for, JEW…ish struck a resounding chord with audiences in its smash-hit live runs in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe and was Offie Award commend.

The disastrous duo, TJ and Max are in love; with polyamory, substance abuse on the Portobello Road and sexually-
charged debates about Israel-Palestine. Occasionally even with each other. There’s just one thing: Max is Jewish. TJ isn’t.

Watch as these fatally flawed lovers navigate the cultural divide – amid death, pegging, and two millennia of inherited trauma – in this laugh-out-loud two-hander which asks the age-old question: is it ever OK to get back with your ex?

TJ Edie Newman
Max Saul Boyer
Writers Saul Boyer & Poppy Damon
Directors Kennedy Bloomer & Toby Hampton
Set & Costume Designer Sorcha Corcoran (original designer Georgia Cusworth)
Composer Matthew Ballantyne
Producer Zoe Weldon


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