Booby’s Bay by Henry Darke, Finborough Theatre, 9 February 2018

Oh dear.

We found this one a real dud. Both the play and the production.

The subject matter really interested us. The housing crisis and the notion of a protester taking on the establishment…

…but this play missed the mark for us in so many ways. The protester was not only a flawed hero (that’s a good idea for such a play) but is in many ways a shirking beneficiary of the housing crisis. It is hard to buy into the conceit of a play when you find the moral hero at the core quite so conflicted and irritating.

Click here or image below for a link to the Finborough resource on this play/production.

The production had ideas beyond its ability to deliver too, with several long interludes of singing and movement that were almost embarrassing in their amateurishness. Janie struggled (failed) to avoid laughing in inappropriate places at times – the good news being that those were such noisy times, few if any other people would have noticed.

Another scene that really didn’t work for us…let’s call it the shark scene…had us laughing at the artlessness of the performance rather than at the material itself, which was meant to be comedic, but not in that way.

The good news for us was that we were both in a pretty relaxed mood on that Friday evening; this lemon of a play/production was so poor it almost entertained us to share that sorry experience and chat about it afterwards. Had we been in a stressy-end-of-the-week mood, having rushed to get to the theatre on time, we might have been far less amused.

Also, as we were just around the corner from Mohsen, we had a very tasty Persian meal to look forward to and then enjoy in Noddyland after the show.

Here is a link to the reviews, which have not been brilliant although some have been much kinder than ours.

We really do think it is a shame that this one was such a flop for us. We’re becoming very fond of the Finborough and we also both think that the subject matter – the housing and inequality crisis in our society, is a very relevant topic for theatrical treatment at the moment. Just not this play/production.

Here is a link to the trailer:

BOOBY’S BAY Trailer 1 from Henry Darke on Vimeo.

The Melting Pot by Israel Zangwill, Finborough Theatre, 3 December 2017

This was a very interesting Sunday evening at the Finborough.

Here is a link to the Finborough resource on this play/production.

The playwright, Israel Zangwill, sounds like a fascinating character in his own right. To some extent the story in the play mirrors his story, although the play is set in New York, not Zangwill’s native London. Also, the play’s young hero is a composer, rather than an author.

The young hero of the play, David, is a refugee survivor of the Kishinev (Chișinău) pogrom, inspired to compose music to celebrate the cultural melting pot he finds in New York. He falls in love with a beautiful Russian Christian radical who is running a settlement house in New York and who turns out to be the daughter of an anti-semitic Baron from Bessarabia. How culpable is the Baron for the pogrom that took place on his watch? And how is the young love going to go down with him and with David’s traditionally orthodox but loving kin?

If that all sounds a bit melodramatic to your taste, I can understand the sentiment. Yet somehow Zangwill manages to avoid those excesses, at least in the hands of this Bitter Pill/NeilMcPherson/Finborough production. The play isn’t quite Ibsen, but it is even less like a melodramatic Yiddish Theatre monstrosity.

Indeed the play seems hugely pertinent today, with many minorities being persecuted across the globe still, plus swathes of refugees and migrants on the move. Zangwill includes both sides of the assimilation (or perhaps I should say acculturation) and ethnic tolerance argument, although you are left in no doubt that you have been in the hands of a liberal enthusiast of the melting pot.

Grandpa Lew, sitting, with his musician brother, Great Uncle Max, standing

Of course I cannot help this piece bringing to mind my own family – in particular my mother’s musical family, who came to London from the Pale of Settlement in the early 1890s.

I wondered briefly whether Israel Zingwall might have taught my Grandpa Lew at the Jews’ Free School, as the programme says that Zingwall taught there, but a little on-line research indicates that Zingwall quit teaching at that school a few years before Grandpa Lew made his fleeting appearances there (between periods of survival-oriented child labour truancy).

Returning to the Finborough in December 2017, the place was deservedly full on a cold, wet Sunday evening. In the bar and audience we saw Michael Billington, with Mrs B making a (now rare/occasional) appearance at the theatre. The Billington’s dedication to high-quality fringe theatre over the decades is exceptional.

Reviews, if/when they appear, should be covered by this search term – click here.

Janie and I highly recommend this production.