Sunday, July 23, 2017


Chichester Festival Theatre

This 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.
So 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 band for the inevitable Jewish wedding.
Lez 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.
The 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.
The 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 audience. Tracy-Ann 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.
The 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.
Louis Maskell stands out as the radical teacher Perchik, bringing a breath of revolution to the shtetel.
This is perhaps the classic, definitive Fiddler, harnessing state of the art staging to recreate a lost world suspended somewhere between history and nostalgia.

No comments:

Post a Comment