From musical comedy to Shakespearean classics and modern-day dramas, Jewish performers are ready to embrace the limelight at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Neil Perry takes a look at some of the funniest acts on offer. [divider]
New York writer Stephen Cole and Broadway composer David Crane are hoping to get the audiences rolling in the aisles with their bizarre musical comedy, The Road to Qatar.
The show is based on the true story of how the Emir of Qatar commissioned Cole and Krane to write him a Broadway-style depiction of an Arabian fable for the opening of a sports academy in Qatar.
That bizarre tale translates onto the stage as the story of two gay New York Jewish writers Michael (played by James Robert-Moore) and Jeffrey (Josh Rochford) who are commissioned to write a gargantuan musical for the Emir which includes 100 British actors, 30 Qatari camels, 20 Arabian stallions, 17 fire-eating Croatian acrobats, 30 Russian ballet dancers, five falcons and Muhammad.
This mad-cap comedy has already been a success at shows in Dallas, off-Broadway and London in a show that is described by its writer Stephen Cole as “an absolute fish out of water story.”
Cole explains: “It really did happen! It was like something out of a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby picture. We were whisked off to Dubai and then Qatar via Bratislava to work with people from all over the world under crazy Arab producers, some of whom had never even done this before.
“They wanted the best of the best, so that’s why they hired New York writers. I doubt they’d still have given us the job had our names been Schwarz and Rabinowitz. They didn’t ask any questions.”
He adds with a quip: “We didn’t even get paid fully for the job – this show is our final payment.”
The Road To Qatar runs until 26th August.
Also performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe are Lund Amateur Dramatics (LADS), a group of University College School students, who are predominantly Jewish.
They are staging a production of Junk, an adaptation of the novel by Melvin Burgess. This contemporary play follows the story of Gemma and Tar, who, suffocated by their middle-class and cliché lifestyles, run away together, seeking freedom and adventure.
What awaits them, however, is the brutal reality of homelessness, drugs and young love.
Group member Cecily Pierce, 17, says: “The opportunity to take a play as exciting and challenging as Junk to the Fringe Festival is unbelievable. I feel extremely lucky to be part of it.”
Junk runs from 11to 17August.
Adding a sprinkle of thespian talent to the festival is Deadly Theatre Productions, a mostly Jewish theatre troupe from University College London, which is staging Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.
The play focuses on revenge and asks the question of how far is too far when seeking retribution.
Director Dan Garber explains the play is one of Shakespeare’s” most overlooked plays”.
He adds: “The story is violent, action packed and gruesome and seems like it could have been written by Tarantino.”
Garber firmly puts a modern twist on the play by setting it in Soviet Russia, which is torn apart by the KGB and organized crime.
Producer Scarlett Young adds: “This is our first big step out into the open world of theatre after several productions at UCL.
“You can expect the show to be a little shocking, some of the stuff isn’t appropriate for small children, but the violence isn’t gratuitous or unnecessary and is stilly funny when it can be.”
Titus Andronicus runs until 17 August.
Looking at the lighter side of life, award-winning musical comedian Jay Foreman will perform his new show, No More Colour.
Returning to Edinburgh for the eighth time, Foreman toured with Dave Gorman last year and is also the presenter of the documentary about unfinished tube lines around Edgware called, Unfinished London.
He tells the Jewish News: “After eight years, I’d describe myself as a veteran with a small ‘v’. Be prepared for a combination of stand up and acoustic guitar with a dose of British nerdiness.”
No More Colour runs until 26 August.
Details and tickets for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival are available online at: www.edfringe.com