Do you know Ari? She’s 29, from Finchley, works as a feature writer for a local newspaper. She’s from a United Synagogue background, she went to Birmingham University, she loves being Jewish but feels a whole lot of pressure from her family to be happy — in the way that they think best.
You might not know Ari herself — unlikely, as she’s a fictional creation — but if you live in north London you’ll probably know any number of women like her. She’s an EveryJew created by actor and writer Deli (it’s short for Danielle, not delicatessen) Segal for her one woman show Pickle which she has written and performs. Caught between two worlds, Jewish and secular, Ari is exploring what being Jewish means to her and to the people around her as she works, relaxes and dates. “She’s trying to work out what she wants to make her happy and free,” says Segal. “She’s on a journey.”
Segal created Ari because so many representations of Jews on stage are male, or historical or very Orthodox. “And that’s very exciting, very interesting , but it’s not the version of Jewishness I grew up with.” Her own, more middle of the road Jewishness is, she says, “just as exciting and has a vibrancy and richness to it,” and there is just as much that is misunderstood and needs to be explained in the non-Jewish world. “I feel very fortunate to have all that knowledge… we have a lot of access to things that a lot of non-Jewish people might not know about. And they could find it just as interesting as learning about the ultra-Orthodox world.”
She hopes that Jews will enjoy the show because we recognise Ari as one of us, and non-Jews will find it illuminating, and even educational — and funny as well, because it is a comedy.
Ari isn’t autobiographical — Segal is from Hampstead Garden Suburb, grew up part of the Masorti community and went to the Noam youth group, before reading English at Cambridge University and training as an actor at the East 15 drama school. Her parents, she says, are not Ari’s parents; “My parents have never put that pressure on me.” But the world that she is portraying on stage is her own, and she hopes that audiences will appreciate the authenticity bolstered by having an all-Jewish all-female creative team, consisting of director Kayla Feldman and producer Tanya Truman.
She’s the only one involved in theatre from her immediate family. But her grandmother’s first cousin was the playwright Arnold Wesker, and Segal, 32, remembers going to his plays with her grandmother — and her grandmother recognising family members portrayed on stage.
And now, with Pickle, she’s carrying on that tradition. “Arnold Wesker was from a different generation. He was making work that reflected his experience of being a first generation immigrant. So his work was steeped in the issues of the time. And each generation is going to go through their own experience. This is my time.”
Pickle is at Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, May 2 to 7