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Nice Jewish Boy at The Hope Theatre

Nice Jewish Boy is a one-man show written and performed by Josh Maughan and tells the story of Josh, a young South African living in London who’s just about to turn 19 and is not only Jewish but gay which is something frowned upon in the orthodox Jewish community – and he hasn’t come out to his parents.

Nice Jewish Boy
Nice Jewish Boy

Now you’d think this situation would cause Josh a lot of existential angst but in fact, he seems quite happy with his lot. He’s living somewhere nice in the capital, goes to Hampstead Heath for sex, to shul (synagogue) every Saturday for religious sustenance and even fancies his rabbi. He takes poppers before heading off for a night of hedonism at Heaven – London’s biggest gay club – and seems to be living the life. He is slightly conflicted about what his God thinks about his lifestyle but it doesn’t seem to stop him. Even his big worry about coming out to his parents – and his mother in particular – is unfounded as when he gets up the courage to tell them they’re not bothered at all – it seems they always knew. As his stereotypical Jewish mother says, “Of course, we knew – we gave you a Lady Gaga CD for your twelfth birthday”.

And that’s about it for the sixty-minute monologue although there is the use of voiceover when we hear his mother (uncredited in the programme) on the phone. Nothing much happens and although we learn about Josh’s life, there’s not much tension or drama – it’s all a bit nice.

Josh Maughan is South African, Jewish and gay – this is his personal story. As he says on the theatre’s website “Writing this play has been such a cathartic journey and I’m buzzing to be able to share it with everyone in my favourite city in the world – and at one of my favourite theatres”, so his warm and personable personality shines through. He’s aided and abetted by an excellent sound design (once again not credited) which adds sound effects and music (klezmer and disco) as another layer to the piece. Unfortunately, it’s a little over-directed by Jake Samson. There’s a lot of moving around of six large cubes which at times distracts rather than enhances. They’re lit from within and when they denote that Josh is in Heaven, then he has to fumble for a remote control to turn them off when the scene changes – all a bit fussy and unnecessary. There’s also some audience participation which just wasn’t needed – Josh spends the time when he’s not talking on the phone, breaking the fourth wall anyway and he doesn’t need to get a member of the audience on the stage just to demonstrate the rabbi’s handshake.

There’s no doubt that Nice Jewish Boy is warm, friendly and of course, nice. There’s even a card given out to the audience that on one side is a Dictionary of the Jewish and Yiddish words he uses and on the other side is a DickTionary (sic) of queer terms although I’m not sure it was really necessary.

Nice Jewish Boy is more a bowl of chicken soup than a big plate of salt beef and latkes – it doesn’t quite satisfy the appetite and leaves you wanting more.

3 Star Review

Review by Alan Fitter

Josh has always been a nice Jewish boy. He had a lovely girlfriend, got good grades and was even head boy of his Jewish high school. However, in London, he discovers men, and poppers, and douching and Heaven nightclub.

Produced by Springbok Production House, Nice Jewish Boy is a tragic comedy about a clash of identities. When Josh is gifted his worst nightmare on his 19th birthday, he must confront what haunts both his synagogue services and Grindr hookups.

As an ode to our desperation for inclusivity, Josh Maughan’s debut one-man play is for all – bring your partners, bring your friends, bring your mothers and fathers and if you dare, bring your grandparents and follow Josh as he discovers who he is – and who he can be.

13 – 17 DEC 2022
director JAKE SAMSON

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