Jew You Love Me?, Lion and Unicorn Theatre – Review

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L-R: Alex Ayliffe, Kieran Stallard, Jack Reitman and Ido Gonen

Jew You Love Me? has the distinction of not only being a British musical, it focuses on the seldom explored subject of being Jewish in the UK – as part of society as a whole and within their own community. Set within Golders Green in north London, the fictitious nexus of this neighbourhood is a café called ‘Desire’. While it isn’t exactly like ‘Central Perk’ in Friends, it is the place where everybody meets up and where we’re introduced to the characters. Its proprietor Sam (Martha Pothen) isn’t Jewish, but it is her policy that all her customers are welcome.

There’s Will (Jack Reitman) who is often on his phone composing his songs. Then there’s Ethan (Alex Ayliffe) – also creatively-inclined, trying to finish his poem. Both are gay, but Ethan assumes that Will is straight and not ‘suitable’ for him. Of course, despite their mutual attraction, Ethan already has a boyfriend – Alon (Ido Gonen). But while Ethan prefers monogamous relationships, Alon would like to ‘open’ up the relationshp to give it some extra spice. Of course having an ‘open’ relationship opens other doors too…

Female gay relationships are also under the spotlight with Sam, who has feelings for best friend Gabi (Ashley Racov). Only Gaby assumes they get on so well because of a deeply-rooted platonic love. Besides, she is still ‘dating’ men, even if they don’t bother to turn up…

Screenshot_2018-07-29 What's on

However, it’s not just young people who frequent the café, as Rachel (Batel Israel) and Yakov (Josh Becker) are there most days. An elderly Jewish couple who live life to the fullest, they are estranged from their daughter Dina (Adi Loya) who thinks they are too libertarian. Dina’s spent the past 20+ years living in Israel, where she practises her faith with the degree of exactitude she’s comfortable with. Having had no contact with her grandparents her whole life, Dina’s daughter Bracha (Tanya Truman) travels to London to visit them. However, having assimilated her mother’s uncompromising views on life, Bracha’s points of view at the cafe go down as well as a lead balloon…

Inclusivity and acceptance are very big themes in the show, but while there are expectations of this from others, self-awareness plays an even bigger part. While Bracha appears vehement in her views initially, it hides the conflict in her heart about her sexuality. If she can’t learn to love and accept herself, how can her heart relate to other people?

While there are in-jokes about being Jewish, much of the humour stems from experiences of ‘dating’ and what people expect from ‘relationships’. Songs such as Blame It On The Weather evoke the ‘downs’ in relationships that occur through misunderstandings, while there are plenty of amusing moments inspired by Tinder and “swiping right”.

While it may seem strange to make this comparison, the show’s emphasis on the differences between men and women, connections between people of different worlds and challengeing the ‘us and them’ mentality makes it a natural successor to South Pacific. The mirth balances out the more serious message of being true to oneself, one’s roots, but being a part of society at large. Principles have their place, but if one’s actions aren’t tempered by love, it will stifle empathy for others.

© Michael Davis 2018

Jew You Love Me? runs at Lion and Unicorn Theatre from 27th-29th July. (Sunday 2.30pm and 7.30pm).

https://www.thejewishcabaret.com/whats-on

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