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This visceral, explosive play had its UK premiere at The Ustinov Studio last summer which understandably led to a London run; it is great to see this excellent play back with a new cast heading out on tour. Another success from the Ustinov stable.

Bad Jews is set in New York where a beloved grandfather – a Holocaust survivor – has just died, and a treasured family heirloom with religious significance is up for grabs. But who is most deserving of it? The religious fanatic Daphna, her wealthy cousin Liam who has just returned from Aspen with his non – Jewish girlfriend, Melody, or his brother Jonah who would prefer not to get involved in the fight.

The script is electrifying; fleeting from comedy to heartbreaking revelations in a beat. Tempers explode and home truths are revealed with slicing blows. There are endless battering speeches that drive the story with great effect.

Daphna (Alisa Joy) is feared by her cousin and perfectly captured as a strong, opinionated woman to whom being Jewish is fundamental. Her performance is central to the piece, coiling onto a stool quietly recharging for the next explosion; caged by the small, pristine apartment; prowling and hunting each character down in turn. It is hard for the others to get a word in but the quietly powerful Jonah (Jos Slovick) so strong in his silence and trying to keep the peace until the bitter end. The cast are excellent, Liam (Daniel Boyd) has clearly chosen to use parts of his Jewish history and sees little relevance in the all encompassing religion that Daphna subscribes to and this results in hugely discomforting contempt. His girlfriend Melody (Antonia Kinlay) is a perfect American girl, who attempts to create some peace and arbitration only to cause further chaos, a great leveller and innocence in the chaos. The performances are truly exciting to watch, the whirlwind of emotions leaving an audience gasping for breath

The excellent design from Richard Kent captures the Hudson River apartment with ease, the split staging providing a small escape tunnel from the single room cell.

It is hard to recommend this production highly enough; the superb writing is brought to razor sharp life underpinned by stylish direction from Michael Longhurst. Grab a ticket.


***** (5 Stars)

Petra Schofield