What is instantly apparent about the two actors – Robert Neumark-Jones playing Jesse and Asha Reid as Alex – is that their command of the stage is paramount; both delivering performances that are completely spell-binding. Their confinement in a box with open sides projects a feeling of being trapped and is clearly a metaphor for how we live our lives. To show advancement in time the box seems to explode with the metal struts that form the box becoming lit and serving as lightning bolts of pure blinding energy as the backdrop illuminates the passing years.
Writer Stephen Laughton has very clear intentions here and with director Sarah Meadows and designer Georgia de Grey, they have achieved it with a passionate ease. For example, the founding of the modern State of Israel and being Jewish are two separate entities; a fact Laughton rams home. Certain aspects of the Jewish faith are examined in great detail which adds a distinctive mood and message to the play.
Jesse’s character is the Jewish boy who has been attacked and physically and verbally assaulted. This affects him and shapes him as a man. He meets Alex in a club in 2013 and they hit it off and over the next seven years marry, have a child and discover things about each other that make for thought-provoking theatre.
This is also a very interesting look at an attempt to find domestic bliss and although Jesse wants to settle down he does long for his care free days as a single man, offering fab comments such as “I got so drunk my iPhone did not recognise my face”, a pure comedy zinger.
Laughton also gives a ‘nod’ to the controversy about the Labour Party and the media storm around the anti-semitism within in it, describing Jeremy Corbyn as toxic and offering a challenging question: if there is such a thing as a left wing Jew?
This is a delightful play and although at times I found the time changes to be jarring and abrasive, this did add to the verbal banter between the two as issues of loyalty, religious differences, racism, manipulation, keeping secrets and understanding trauma were all added to the mix.
This is also about a marriage that becomes a powder keg destined to explode. One Jewish Boy is a true attention grabber.
Vibrant modern theatre.
Photos by Pamela Raith