A brilliantly performed piece exploring art, identity, and the pressures both can face
Indecent is a play that revels in its enjoyment of art, particularly Sholem Asch’s “The God of Vengence”. Through that dedication to art, and the feelings it can generate and inspire in those who experience it, the script is able to create this excellent tale of a company of Jewish actors travelling the 20th-century world with this masterpiece. All of this is accentuated by an incredible cast who bring the passion and the horror of the piece to light.
Sets in the ADC are generally dressed down and are often seen as walls with raised levels, which Indecent certainly doesn’t change the tune on very radically, having a laid bare set with a wooden fence backdropping the piece. This set was in many ways all that was needed, as it not only helped to sell the moments in Asch’s more humble beginnings, but, in combination with the projection of title cards and a noticeable shift in accents and behaviour from the cast depending on location, also helped to really bring life to each scene.
There were times throughout the play when this projection was more of a hindrance than a help however; there were certain moments where the projector was noticeably off-centre, or the stage lighting seemingly hadn’t been programmed in to account for the projection, making it hard to read, or different slides were skipped through quickly in an effort to catch up. These mishaps certainly took you out of the performance a fair bit, though when it worked, it worked wonderfully not only to help set the scene but also to highlight the ever-changing language used by the cast, excellently supporting their performances.Turning to the cast, the framing of the play as a retelling by Lemml (Dominika Wiatrowska) and company from the start did make it at some moments a little difficult to follow who exactly was who, as throughout most of the run the characters and their names we are introduced to are not being portrayed. But this is slight in comparison to the excellent performances being given out across the board.
Jake Burke’s performances, from the sterner, concerned Mr Peretz to the wonderfully lavish German of Rudolph Schildkraut are wonderful to see, as he sells the concerns of the characters he is multi-rolling well, making even something as simple as repeating the ending of the play time and time again a joy to see, particularly as his performance subtly changes across the gaps in time and change in location.
Other particular performances of note were Francesca Lees and Eirlys Lovell-Jones, who in playing the roles of Rifkele and Manke, despite a changing roster of characters who perform them, sell each performance excellently. Each change in the company’s composition is delightfully noticeable in the impact it has, with the addition of Lees’ conservative dolly replacement in America as Virginia McFadden wonderfully missing out on any of the play’s subtleties is a delight to see in contrast to Lovell-Jones’ extremely passionate Dorothee.
It is also hard not to write this without highlighting the wonderful work by Sam Benatar as Sholem Asch, whose transition from a man passionate about revolutionising Jewish art, to one broken by the horrors experienced in Eastern Europe in the 1920s and beyond, was incredibly impactful to watch pan out, as he slowly becomes recluse at the expense of his art, for the understandable reason of his family and safety.Physicality is also another key element of this production which really helps to bring it to life, with a wonderful mix of more traditional Eastern European choreography, with the creeping inclusion of Cabaret and American dance across the run as the company goes even further away from its Polish and Jewish origins. Each moment of dance, wonderfully choreographed by Wiatrowska, not only helps to emphasise the nature of the production, both in the ADC and in the world of Indecent, as a fundamentally Jewish piece of art, but it also sets the tone for the upcoming scenes.
A particular highlight is the hybridisation of Cabaret and more traditional choreography being a humourous delight emphasising the excitement of taking “A God of Vengeance” to Berlin, contrasting the use of American music and dance, as the play is anglicised in New York and censored for the American morality code.
Accompanying these movement sections is an excellent band and set of vocal skills from the cast, with the use of accordion and violin helping to set the tone immaculately. Whilst there were some technical issues with the use of microphones to assist the cast in having their vocal performances heard, with inconsistent audio levels for each cast member’s natural projection and the odd moment where mutterings offstage could be heard via their mics. This, however, is generally the exception not the norm and on the whole, audio levels are excellent and fit in seamlessly.Indecent is an excellent script, excellently performed by a company which really understands the emotional weight the play carries and brings that to light. The technical work, whilst conceptually marvellous, is let down a couple of times with some dodgy projection and mixing of audio levels. Though on the whole, this is more than worth your time to come and see, especially for a cabaret scene change which had the audience wishing for more.
Indecent is showing on the 31st of January – 4th of February at 7:45 pm at the ADC Theatre. Book your tickets here.
Feature image credits: Miranda Crawford
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