18 March 2020, The Tablet

Judging Jewishness

Judging Jewishness

Adrian Scarborough as Hermann in Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt
Photo: Marc Brenner


Not Quite Jerusalem
Finborough Theatre, London

Wyndham’s Theatre, London

The Mikvah Project
Orange Tree, Richmond, London

The Playground Theatre, London

Multiple plays currently in London about Judaism can be attributed to the recent urgent topicality in Britain of Jewishness and, its toxic historical corollary, anti-Semitism.
Not Quite Jerusalem, which won Paul Kember the Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright Award in 1980, is set on a kibbutz near Jerusalem in the year Margaret Thatcher was first elected. Four Brits have volunteered to continue the building of an Israeli state that is barely three decades old.

Because of William Blake, “Jerusalem”, when used in English writing, invariably invokes the Anglican rather than Jewish homeland. Israel’s socialist, communitarian founding principles are contrasted with an English working class dully suppliant to a right-wing establishment that uses them to its own advantage. That aspect of the play felt astonishingly topical now; what has poignantly changed is Israel’s international reputation. A young friend told me that a UK student kibbutznik these days would be advised to keep the trip quiet, at risk of campus ostracism.

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