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The Mikvah Project | Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography

The Mikvah Project by Josh Azouz. Dylan Mason photo by Robert Day
The Mikvah Project by Josh Azouz. Dylan Mason photo by Robert Day

From the 3rd to the 11th of August the Orange Tree Theatre are showing four productions from emerging directors who have been studying on the Orange Tree and St Mary’s University MA Theatre Directing Course.

On the opening evening of the festival, I saw two of these productions: The Mikvah Project by Josh Azouz, directed by Georgia Green and Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography by Declan Greene, directed by Gianluca Lello.

The Mikvah Project is set in a Jewish Mikvah, where Eitan (Dylan Mason) and Avi (Robert Neumark Jones) meet every Friday for ritual cleansing. The two are at very different stages of life: Avi is 37, married and trying for a child. Eitan is 17 studying at college and loves Arsenal Football Club. The production starts slowly as Avi and Eitan remove floorboards one by one to reveal the Mikvah. Their relationship then develops week by week as they discuss women, marriage, football and unwanted erections. Eitan falls in love with Avi, Avi tells him it is just a phase it will pass, he used to really in Warhammer once! Some of the references to Jewish religious rituals were unfamiliar to me and I would have welcomed a glossary of terms in a programme note, but the play was fascinating, exploring the difficulties of living within a traditional Jewish community in modern multi-cultural north London.

Robert and Dylan are a perfect casting for this play, both extremely engaging and utterly convincing in their roles. The set is simple, other than the requirement for a pool deep enough for two men to submerge themselves at regular intervals, there are just two benches for changing and a generous supply of fluffy white towels. Robert Neumark Jones’ singing voice is quite beautiful as he performs the ritual chanting, it is easy to see why a young boy would fall in love with him.

The second production, Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography was audibly quite a contrast. In place of the hauntingly beautiful chanting, this play began with loud, unsettling cacophonous noise while the audience sat in total darkness waiting for the play to begin. Whatever the play will be like it has to be better than this! The lights come on to reveal Man ( Matthew Douglas) and Woman (Cate Hamer) who are both looking for a new relationship via social media. “I really like your profile” they say over and over again, “I know I’m a little outside your age range”, This is a really depressing play, Man has a wife but instead of enjoying a relationship with her he can’t wait for her to go to bed so he can satisfy his pornography addiction. He is middle-aged and overweight but is searching out 17-year-olds with perfect olive skin. Woman’s husband has left her with two kids and a load of debt. She works all the hours she can as a nurse but then rather than paying off her debts she wastes her money on unnecessary online shopping. When they meet online for no-strings sex their lives just get worse and worse. Throughout the play, her mobile phone constantly beeps for attention. So true, nearly every conversation, train journey or theatre trip seems to be disrupted like this these days. The stark white lighting and disturbing electronic interruptions make this an uncomfortable production but it certainly has a lot to say about our information-overloaded lives.

A very thought-provoking evening at one of my favourite theatres, who must be applauded for nurturing future directors in this way. My only disappointment was I would have liked the directors to have made an appearance on stage as this was a showcase of their talents.

4 stars

Review by Sally Knipe

THE MIKVAH PROJECT
by Josh Azouz
Directed by Georgia Green
Cast Dylan Mason and Robert Neumark Jones
Sat 3 & Thu 8 Aug at 7pm | Tue 6 & Sat 10 Aug at 9pm

Now what?
We try and part.
Eitan is 17. Avi is 35.
Eitan loves Arsenal. Avi loves his wife. Eitan goes to college. Avi is trying for a child.
They are in completely different places in their lives.

Yet, every Friday, Eitan and Avi meet at the Mikvah to take part in the Jewish ritual of submerging in the water.
As they chat about life in the synagogue, football, the nature of marriage and desire they form an unexpected bond that threatens to disrupt life outside the Mikvah.

From the writer of smash hit Buggy Baby and Victoria’s Knickers, Josh Azouz’s The Mikvah Project is a play about love in impossible circumstance.

Filled with singing and water, chutzpah and joy, we are reminded how easily a heart can break.

EIGHT GIGABYTES OF HARDCORE PORNOGRAPHY
by Declan Greene
Directed by Gianluca Lello
Cast Matthew Douglas and Cate Hamer
Sat 3 & Thu 8 Aug 9pm | Tue 6 & Sat 10 Aug 7pm

Welcome to the Too-Much-Information Age.
She’s a nurse with terrors for kids, debtors banging at the door and a shopping addiction.
He’s in IT, bored with his lot, trapped in a soulless marriage and addicted to porn.
Miserable, both hanker for something else.

They meet online.
No-strings sex seems like such a good idea.
Or then again…maybe not.

The UK premiere of a comedy about lust, loneliness and hard drive 21st-century dating, from the multi-award-winning Australian writer Declan Greene.
https://www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk/

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