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The Theatreguide.London Review

Menier Chocolate Factory   Autumn 2021

Paula Vogel’s play Indecent is impressively ambitious. It gives us the history of another play The God of Vengeance by the Polish writer Sholem Asch, following its journey across the first half of the 20th Century, two continents, and an obscenity trial for the company for allowing the first two women to be shown kissing in a Broadway play.

If that wasn't enough, it also includes the rise of the Nazis in Germany and the Red-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee.

That kiss between two women is controversial from its first reading in Yiddish to a small group of fellow Jewish writers in Poland. They are shocked and appalled by its story of Rifkele, the daughter of a Jewish brothel keeper, falling in love with Manke, a prostitute.

One of them argues that Asch is ‘pouring petrol on the flames of anti-Semitism’. Another calls for it to be burned. Asch responds by saying ‘Do you know what a minyan is? It's ten Jews in a circle accusing each other of anti-Semitism.’

Only the tailor Lemml (Finbar Lynch), new to the group, likes the play. He becomes its stage manager as it successfully tours Europe and is our guide to its extraordinary story.

Among Indecent’s many striking images is the opening dance of a troupe of performers wearing clothes of the mid 20th Century in which ash pours from their arms. And I defy anyone not to be moved by the joyful dance in the rain of Manke and Rifkele that completes the play.

The uplifting music of Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva carries us from scene to scene. That and the imaginative direction of Rebecca Tauchman, who played a key part in creating this play, remind us of the epic theatre of Brecht. This is possibly the best show in London at the moment.

Keith McKenna

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Review of Indecent  -  Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre 2021


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