Review: Biblical Tales

By John Nathan, August 12, 2010
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New End Theatre, London NW3

In his retelling of four Old Testament stories, writer and director Steven Berkoff has found or inserted messages about Jewish identity that he has often expressed outside the theatre. Here, each is reinvented as a modern morality tale.

"Never be ashamed to show yourself," says Alex Giannini's poker-faced Moses, as he tells Egypt's Jews to mark their doors to avoid the angel of death, in what turns into a chilling omen of the Holocaust.

The story of David and Goliath, featuring a Stepney–accented, cigar-chomping Saul, also serves as an attack on the kind of gentile bigotry that implicates all Jews with the criminality of one. "The whole of our race smeared by one stinking low life," reflects Anthony Barclay's David before agreeing to slay Goliath.

Appropriately enough, the evening begins with a Cockney Adam (Mark Frost in a naked suit sporting a salami-sized penis) preying on a coy Eve (Sarah Chamberlain in a naked suit that doesn't). Their newly-acquired knowledge is corrupted into consumerism.

Delilah's betrayal of Samson (Matthew Clancy) is delivered in slow motion and dialogue. Unlike Samson's hair, it would benefit from a cut.

This is vintage Berkoff, the most distinctive voice in British theatre, with all the attitude, anger and political incorrectness intact.

(Tel: 0870 033 2733)

    Last updated: 10:11am, August 12 2010