Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Hebrew Lesson

Wolf Mankowitz
Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
(2003)

The first play in the Orange Tree's 2003 showcase for Trainee Directors is a simple parable about the way in which life repeats itself in countries and times that are far apart. It is largely a two hander that shows that however different people may seem, "the dreams of young men don't change".

During the revolution in Ireland, a young man, played by Hugh Laurie look-alike Kevin Heaney, is on the run from the Black and Tans in Cork and seeks sanctuary in a top-floor synagogue. There he meets the "rabbi", an itinerant sock salesman as well as a philosopher.

Director David Roderick has chosen a traditional one-act narrative and, after a slow start, the tension builds nicely as the uncertain revolutionary is calmed by the self-effacing humour and wisdom of a man whose family have suffered from generations of pogroms.

The older man (an excellent performance from Philip Anthony) teaches the young man much about humanity and saves his life using wit rather than a gun.

The underlying implication is that the meeting will have a far more profound effect and will change the young man's life forever.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher