"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
ON THE ROOF
Chichester Festival Theatre
is a show that celebrates tradition – it's the opening number, and
the setting is a Jewish community in which culture and religion are
the cornerstones of the life of poverty lived out in rural Russia.
Daniel Evans is wise to embrace the traditional in his staging. The
costumes, the dances emphasise the Jewish roots of these villagers,
whose lives are overturned not only by revolutionary progress, but by
the pogroms which will send them on their travels – the fortunate
to the US, the less so to Warsaw. There's even a small Klezmer
the inevitable Jewish wedding.
Brotherston's striking design uses an empty stage, peopled from the
back by the displaced and the dispossessed, with their suitcases,
symbols of their search for a home, which become the bar, or the
stove, the tables and the chairs.
ensemble pieces are superbly done – three families at sabbath
prayers, the rumour-mill scene, the wedding and its violent end, and
most impressive of all, the nightmare sequence with the noisy ghost
of Fruma-Sarah [Laura Tebbutt] swooping over the bed as the fires of
hell surround the stage. The
detail is often delightful, too; in Miracle of Miracles, for
instance, the Red Sea is parted, manna falls from heaven. The
final tableau has Anatevka's refugees standing behind a curtain of
rain, on which are projected newsreel images of persecutions yet to
come. A profoundly moving, though not over-stated, reminder that
intolerance and insecurity remain real threats to many communities.
loquacious milkman Tevye
and his wife Golde are the big names here. Omid Djalili makes a very
likeable Tevye, confidently appealing to his Maker and to the
Oberman brings a no-nonsence Jewish matriarch convincingly, and
affectingly, to life – the gestures, the body language all
perfectly observed. They're neither of them great singers, and
numbers like Sunrise, Sunset suffer a little for it.
younger generation, on the other hand, are superb musical theatre
vocalists – Matchmaker, Matchmaker excellently done – though,
perhaps deliberately, the three girls are much less ethnically
defined. Emma Kingston's Hodel is very strong, as is Rose Shalloo's
bookworm Chava, who
defies tradition and family ties by eloping with a Russian soldier.
Maskell stands out as the radical teacher Perchik, bringing a breath
of revolution to the shtetel.
is perhaps the classic,
harnessing state of the art staging to recreate a lost world
suspended somewhere between history and nostalgia.