Review: My people

By Luke Unger

★★★★★

Dividing the room in two from wall to wall, the set characterised Elliot Brett’s My People before the first act had begun.  Scattered and chaotic, with the set centred around the dinner table, it was immediately clear that family lay at the heart of this play. Viewing this play from both sides, audience members became scientists, staring through invisible one way glass, watching Brett’s intimate chaos unfold.

Brett’s production portrays the deeply strained relationship which Asha, played by Eden Peppercorn has with her mother Debra. After coming home from a psychiatric rehabilitation facility, we follow Asha as she anxiously steps back into the disjointed world of her family home life.

Indeed, this play relied successfully on both the realistic set and dialogue that flitted between each character with the Ping-Pong tenacity of any dysfunctional family get-together. This has emanated from Brett’s previous production, Cherry, the dialogue of which was equally as intelligent.

Perhaps at times this dialogue could be considered slightly overdone, for instance when Daisy, played by Holly Cattle, swears at the foxes which seemed a little awkward. However, on the whole, the skill with which Brett fixes ham-fisted interjections alongside cleverly written dialogue is commendable.

The play, characterised as a ’proudly Jewish comedy’ certainly succeeded in that regard. For someone who doesn’t know their mensch from their mishpocheh, at no point did I feel completely excluded. The character of Toby, played by Dan Sved offered an accessible insight into the Passover tradition and Jewish culture. While these traditions may be unique to Jews, the goofy ‘mum dance’ which Debra artistically explored in ‘Let My People Go’ was sadly not.

Debra’s character, played by Ella Margolin, was a stand-out performance. As I walked out of the theatre at the end, with an uncanny expression, one of my friends who had grown up in a North London Jewish household told me it was ‘scary how much of a Jewish mum she was’. Her ability to tactfully and quickly negotiate different levels of emotion was impressive.

Praise must also go to Oskar House who plays Eli. While he plays his comic relief role with a subtle precision there are moments within the play where this act is broken and instead replaced by a far more sympathetic character, deeply affected by his dysfunctional father.

Brett’s play must be considered a success. This play clearly surpassed the stereotypic standard of a student play; so often littered with awkward pop-culture references and disjointed overacting all the well-cast members of this play performed Brett’s intelligent vision until the end, to a well-deserved applause.

helicon.magazine@gmail.com

© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol