'The Holy Rosenbergs' review or 'Would you like a macaroon with your misery?'

'The Holy Rosenbergs', A new play by Ryan Craig
Cottesloe Theatre, Wednesday 16th March 2011 
Written for The Ham & High

It isn't just the table that's burdened by family history in Craig's, 'The Holy Rosenbergs'

'There's nothing wrong with my name!' bellows out David, as a 'concerned' friend warns him of his sliding stature within the Jewish community. It is a scene that screams Miller and Ryan Craig's new play certainly has a whiff of 'All My Sons' about it. However, instead of fighting in WWII, the son in Craig's play is flying for the the Israel Defence Force in Gaza. And the father, David, lives not in America but in North West London, where his catering service has all but burnt out.

Unfortunately, Craig doesn't share Miller's virtuoso plot-spinning skills. So, instead of a slow building piece with explosive pay-offs, 'The Holy Rosenbergs' is a frustratingly uneven play. The first half drags, the plot repeats itself and the script feels stiff. There are some well observed moments of Jewish family life, such as when David (Henry Goodman) and his wife Lesley (Tilly Tremayne) polish the table only to put a table cloth right over it, but the pace dips and the dialogue dries up.

Thankfully, Craig soaks his script in lighter fuel in the second half. The plot, so subdued at the start, sparks into life. The characters, initially starchy and surprisingly restrained, suddenly take on colour. Goodman, as always, turns in an honest, vulnerable but steely performance. His David is worn down but strong, selfish but altruistic, admirable and hateful in equal measure.

Henry Goodman (David) Photo credit: Johan Persson
Yet the play never shakes free from its burdens; both the debt it owes to Miller, but cannot quite repay, and the political issues Craig is so keen to discuss. There is some compelling dialogue about the Jewish community's instinctive and emotional reaction to the Gaza conflict ('When Israel is accused, every Jew feels the sting of it.') but the discussions never translate into thick, authentic drama.


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