Life & Culture

A summer full of stars and hardly any antisemitism in their shows

Entertainment is a salve to dark times, and doesn’t this week’s column prove it


Reasons to be cheerful: (from left) Elliot Levy, Rachel Stevens, Jason Isaacs, Lara Pulver and Jess Glynne

I don’t think I need to tell you how dire things feel. Every week the other pages of this newspaper, your social media feeds, your friendship groups are filled with tales of antisemitism and danger.

Entertainment has always been a salve to dark times; it may not cure things but for a short brief time it can give you some escape. So this column is loosely dedicated to things-that-show-that-not-everyone-hates-us. It’s a round up of Jewish(y) showbiz stuff and – incredibly – there are a few things in there that aren’t about antisemitism.

Let’s start with some super happy news; a new production of Fiddler on the Roof will be starting in a few weeks at the gorgeous Open Air Theatre in Regents Park. Yes, there is antisemitism in there, but it’s one of the most beautiful and life affirming musicals in the world, isn’t it?

The other news is that our moaning about Jewface is obviously getting through to creatives as it has a mainly Jewish cast which includes Lara Pulver as Golda and Adam Dannheisser as the milkman Tevye. It opens on July 27.

Meanwhile huge trans-Atlantic hit The Lehman Trilogy is back in London for a strictly limited season from September 24. Ok there’s a bit of antisemitism in there too – but the play is incredible and well worth a watch if you haven’t had a chance to see it.

The cast is made up of John Heffernan, Aaron Krohn and Howard W Overshown and follows a critically acclaimed run in San Francisco.

Another return is the sold out Cable Street – the musical returning briefly to the West End for four weeks from September – you can probably tell what that is about.

One of the most eagerly awaited new plays of the year stars one of my favourite actors, Elliot Levey. Giant is heading to the stage in September and this one is very very much about antisemitism, as embodied by children’s author Roald Dahl. The play takes place across a single afternoon and Levey stars at Dahl’s Jewish publisher Tom Maschler. Dahl has just given an interview in which he’s espoused his antisemitic views and Maschler is there to pick up the pieces.

John Lithgow plays Dahl, and it is directed by Nicholas Hytner. Interestingly, it is being shown at the Royal Court theatre which was once the home of antisemitic plays rather than plays about antisemitism. See – things can change…

Fellow fans of Levey will be seeking out the  filmed version of Good, the play he did with David Tennant, which is doing extremely well on iPlayer even though it was put out with a minimum amount of publicity. The play is set in the run up to the Second World War and feels particularly apt as it’s about a university professor who finds himself increasingly radicalised into becoming an antisemite.

And look out for him playing a Jewish detective in new UKTV show Bookish created by Mark Gatiss which is due to start soon. Praise be – there is no antisemitism in the first series.

If like me you are a fan of the TV series White Lotus you too will be excited to hear that another of my favourite Jewish actors, Jason Isaacs, is filming the third fourth series of the drama in Thailand.

In other TV I’ve heard great things about: We Were the Lucky Ones on Disney about a Polish family during the Shoah – yup there’s antisemitism. And I do recommend Israeli show Bros on Netflix which is a sweet show about two best friends and crazy football fans. There is a only a teeny bit of antisemitism in this one.

Meanwhile Israeli actress Shira Haas won the best actress Jury prize at the prestigious Monte Carlo TV Awards earlier this month for her role in a show called Night Therapy – watch this space for where we can see it.

Speaking of award winners,Maria Friedman’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along (which started here at the Menier Chocolate Factory) was one of the big winners of the Tony Awards with Daniel Radcliffe winning his first American theatre gong. Hopefully it will head back from Broadway to London after picking up four gongs. There is no antisemitism in the musical (although another big winner was Prayer for the French Republic which is about antisemitism in France in 2016).

Tough times are why Jewish humour can be particularly dark and if you are planning to head over to the Edinburgh Fringe in August there are more than 20 different Jewish acts to ranging from Rachel Creeger’s Ultimate Jewish Mother to David Ellis in a show called The Worst Jew.

  If you don’t have time to get to all of them, Jew-O-Rama brings some of the best Jewish acts together in a comedy compilation.

Edinburgh is also showcasing dozens of Jewish plays or plays by Jews including In Defiance of Gravity about a Jew in the Russian Imperial Court and Naomi Paul’s They May Have Eaten Ham.

Music wise, Jess Glynne is touring the UK and is unlikely to mention antisemitism. Former S Club 7 star Rachel Stevens, meanwhile, has a new biography out called Find My Voice and I hear she is incredibly open in it. I don’t think either of them do much talking about antisemitism – so let’s hear it for the musicians. Just don’t mention Charlotte Church and Glastonbury.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive