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Theatre review: The Holy Rosenbergs 
21st-Mar-2011 11:15 pm
Ryan Craig did the translation of Our Class, my top show of 2009, in the Cottesloe. He's now back in the same theatre with his own new play, The Holy Rosenbergs, which deals with Jewish politics both on an international scale and right down the the level of a single family. Jessica Curtis' in-the-round set (which feels uncannily like you've stepped into the pristine home of a friend's family) is of the Rosenbergs' front room in Edgware, the day before the funeral of older son Danny, a volunteer soldier in the Israeli army. His mother Lesley (Tilly Tremayne) is fussing over everyone to distract herself, father David (Henry Goodman) is trying to prop up a kosher catering company that's clearly failing, and younger son Jonny, played by Alex Waldmann and his Patty Bouvier hair, is off the rails and a disappointment to his father. The family's standing in the local community (and their business fortunes) aren't helped by daughter Ruth (Susannah Wise) who works for an international lawyer (Stephen Boxer) compiling a report on possible human rights violations in Gaza. Where Danny was seen as a hero, the tight-knit Jewish community sees Ruth as a traitor to Israel.

After his two Northampton productions transferred here last year, Laurie Sansom returns to direct and does justice to Craig's script. Both play and production are well-judged, it's noticeable how well-timed some of the comic moments are to relieve the palpable tension that's built up. The international politics is at the forefront in a scene between Boxer and Paul Freeman (who after Enlightenment I can only think of as Paul "WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?" Freeman) as a local doctor who represents the local people's views. But there's a good balance between this and the smaller politics of a community where the wrong reputation can make your life difficult, and even more intimately in just this family (David casually admitting he'd have preferred Jonny to have died instead of Danny drew gasps.) The cast (also including Philip Arditti as their rabbi) give strong performances and apart from anything else it's a relief to see the National doing an issue-based play that doesn't largely consist of people reeling out lists of facts and figures.

The Holy Rosenbergs by Ryan Craig is in repertory until the 24th of June at the National Theatre's Cottesloe.
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