Simon Ward reviews JEW…ish at The King’s Head Theatre
I think it was Jonathan Miller who came up with the line “I’m not really a Jew; just Jew-ish, not the whole hog.” Writers Poppy Damon and Saul Boyer (who also plays Max) have taken the gag run with it.
It’s safe to say that a show which includes polyamorous liaisons, a manatee represented in interpretative dance, a remote-controlled Mini and an attempted disinterment of a deceased grandmother is not holding anything back in the attempt to breathe new life into the rom-com plot and raise a laugh in process. Add the frisson of Jew…ishness into the mix (and yes, Momentum/Labour anti-semitism is dutifully namechecked) and it is an unlikely recipe for a smash hit. Nevertheless they have pulled it off with great aplomb.
Our heroes are TJ (Edie Newman) and the aforementioned Max. He is Jewish; she, not so much. They meet at their college polyamorous society (who knew?) little realising the trials they are set to endure before finally finding out that nothing, not even religion, can get in the way of true love. The steps may be predictable – weddings, funerals are present and correct, although strangely no bar-mitzvahs – but the new spin they manage to put on them makes it a joy from start to finish, and it deserves to be seen more widely.
This is one of those shows that bowls you along in a stream of frankly hilarious gags – you do wonder if they can maintain it but they do. At the same time, there are actually some serious points to make about the power of family and society. Even during one of their periods of separation, TJ misses Max’s family almost as much as she misses him. For all the sometimes suffocating hold of the family, there is something comforting in it as well, which we may otherwise have lost. And the hold that family tradition has over Max, in spite of his distinctly secular lifestyle, is palpable. But the main thing you will take away into the blustery Islington night is the warming glow of laughter.
JEW…ish is running at The King’s Head Theatre, Islington until Sunday 19th January.