The plight of a provincial Polish-Jewish family between 1939 and 1946 is portrayed in Julian Caddy's earnest production of Julian Garner's illuminating play.
Set in the village of Lasznic (pronounced "Wonchnik"), the play opens with the Abramovich family preparing for Pesach amid the sound of chickens in the yard. Clucked over by Adrian Swifts's disapproving, Torah-fixated father, Yoineh, and Maria Brennan's anxious mother, Friedel, Marco Toschetti's kippah-wearing Ya'acov is writing allegorical tales inbetween his religious studies, while his sister, Beile, sensitively played by Laura Brown, is a budding artist.
Into their lives comes Hannibal Latuff's starched, church-based art restorer, Ryszard, who is removing the grime from a newly realistic 15th-century painting depicting the flight from King Herod's slaughter of the innocents of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Gideon Raeburn, who is Jewish, plays the non-Jewish caretaker, Krasinski.
Though the on-stage chemistry is somewhat skaky, and some of the performances a bit wooden, it's a valiant attempt to recreate the fears, and fantasies, of an impoverished, besieged Jewish population, facing segregation, boycotts and attacks well before the Nazis invaded, with some changing their identities to try to survive.
Not the least impressive part of the production is the make-up of the central London-based Sweet Studio cast. It features a senior legal and business affairs manager at the BBC, a solicitor, an accountant, a management consultant, a holographic producer and an event manager for a charity. With accents that include Welsh, New Zealand, Italian and Venezuelan, it made for an intriguing, if slightly disorientating, listening experience.