My first show of 2020 sees me, once again Islington bound, to the fabled King’s Head for Unleash the Llama’s production JEW…ish.
This is the story of TJ (Edie Newman) and Max (Saul Boyer) two millennials that met at university, were members of the polyamory society and shared many experiences together. Now they have left Uni and are in the real world – Max is a not very successful stand-up comic (and part time barista) whilst TJ is a performer who expresses herself through the world of creative interpretive dance. They are still together – sort of – and probably have as many differences with each other as they do things in common. For example, Max is Jewish, and has the stereotypically large overbearing family to go with it, whilst TJ is definitely a Gentile and firmly believes that Max’s family hates her. Given their history can, and indeed should, these two try and make a go of things, or should, and indeed can, they let each other go their separate ways?
What a great start to the theatrical year JEW…ish proved to be. From the explosive opening – no spoilers but it established Max’s identity in ten seconds – to the ending – fun from start to finish. Poppy Damon and Saul Boyer obviously knew what their Jewish families, and there were many nods of recognition and agreement from the audience around me, at the descriptions of domineering mothers and grandmothers able to manipulate their male offspring things from beyond the grave. More importantly, they have created two highly realistic millennials going through all the angst and #firstworldproblems, so beloved – according to certain newspapers – of the ‘snowflake generation’. Max and TJ could have been so easy to dislike but, thanks to some first rate writing and acting, they were just lovely. At the heart of the story is the relationship between the two of them. After I returned home, I was discussing the show with a friend and he said that Max and TJ sounded like Ross and Rachel from “Friends”. Whilst not as complicated, I could see his point. And, just like with R&R I loved Max and TJ and so, so wanted them to end up together at the end of hour long run.
Kennedy Bloomer and Toby Hampton directed the show well – I absolutely adored the car ride. Unfortunately, the layout of the stage meant there were occasions when it was difficult to see the actors fully or one was blocking the other. This was true during the restaurant scene where the audience sitting opposite me couldn’t see – and therefore fully understand why our side of the theatre was laughing so much. It’s a minor thing, and I realise that often something that the production company doesn’t have much control over. However, it didn’t spoil the show for me and I loved every moment. There was a lot of action and scenes slotted into the show and they all ran together seamlessly, giving the audience a wonderful insight into Max and TJ’s world and relationship. One thing I do have to mention is that I am eternally grateful to Max for the fact I now fully understand man’s relationship to velvet, and that the difference between a barrister, barista and comedian is that it is ‘law, not latte or LOLs’.
Overall, JEW…ish was really great fun and highly entertaining. It started brilliantly and the ending was very satisfying, though whether Max and TJ ended together is something you will have to find out by going along to see it.
Review by Terry Eastham
We can’t stay together, you think the Gaza Strip is a burlesque act! Jew…ish is the twisted millennial romcom that absolutely no one asked for, posing the one question that should never be answered: is it ever ok to get back with your ex? TJ and Max are in love; with polyamory, substance-based escapism on the Portobello Road and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Occasionally even each other. There’s just one thing: Max is Jewish. TJ isn’t. Watch as these mortal (fre)nemies navigate the cultural divide – amid death, pegging, and two millennias of inherited trauma.
14 January 2020 – 19 January 2020