Review: One Jewish Boy, The Old Red Lion Theatre *****
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Review: One Jewish Boy, The Old Red Lion Theatre *****

Beatrice Sayers reviews Stephen Laughton's latest play focusing on a mixed-faith relationship

Robert Neumark-Jones stars as Jesse in One Jewish Boy
Robert Neumark-Jones stars as Jesse in One Jewish Boy

In One Jewish Boy, a mixed-faith relationship breaks down in step with, and in part, because of the rise of antisemitism in Britain over the last 14 years to 2018.

Jesse is a Jew from Highgate. When we first see him he is trying to talk his wife, mixed-race Alex from Peckham, out of serving the divorce papers she has brought with her.

Through scenes with an interwoven chronology, we later discover that they met in their twenties on the Ibiza party scene.

Their otherness is what attracted them to each other, but the differences in that otherness eventually tear them apart.

Robert Neumark-Jones gives a compelling performance as the gawky, immature Jesse, whose reaction to the spread of a hatred he has experienced personally first preoccupies and eventually destabilises him.

Georgia de Grey’s set, with transparent tent and neon indicators of the year, mirror Jesse’s siege mentality.

The quickfire exchanges between Jesse and the worldly Alex (played with impressive self-assurance by Asha Reid) show the couple as well matched in witty sophistication, but ultimately Alex cannot handle a relationship with someone who doesn’t feel what he feels.

This is not Laughton’s first Jewish play (his highly acclaimed Run explored the mind of a gay orthodox teen), but it is the first to take Judaism as its main theme.

The abuse the playwright received on social media following pre-publicity for the play was a gift to ticket sales. But the play itself will only build on his reputation for intelligent and fearless writing.

One Jewish Boy runs at Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington, until 5 January. Details: oldredliontheatre.co.uk

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