'The Mikvah Project' review or 'Let's jump in at the deep end.'

The Mikvah Project, Josh Azouz
The Yard Theatre, 23rd February 2015
Written for Time Out 



Miller, artistic director of The Yard, wants to use Hackney Wick’s hippest venue to interrogate how we stage and perform dramatic texts. ‘The Mikvah Project’, written by Josh Azouz, is an impressive start. This new play is set at a Jewish Mikvah, a pool used for ritual cleansing, and explores the burgeoning relationship between two men. It is a simple story but the textures in this production – the agile text, enveloping soundscape, subtle lighting and abstract projections – make for a beautifully nuanced show.

This is Jay Miller’s directing debut and he hasn’t held back. A pool (designed by Cécile Trémoliéres) sits centre stage, filled with an impressive amount of water. This is the Mikvah. Light ripples above the pool, throbbing images are projected above and Josh Grigg’s soundscape, rich with polyphonic cords, gently pulses about the stage. The space feels serene, strange, spiritual. 

It is at this pool that 17-year-old Eitan (Oliver Coopersmith, a cracking performer) and 30-something Avi (Jonah Russell) meet, cleanse and – possibly, briefly – fall in love. Sometimes they seem comfortable, sometimes out of place. We watch a naked Avi immerse himself in the water and he looks calm, almost noble. But as Avi and Eitan’s relationship develops, so too does their relationship with the Mikvah. At one point Eitan creeps around the pool, hiding an erection, and in another scene Avi drops into the pool with such abandon that it looks like he is dying. 

Azouz’s script slides between varied narratives, staccato poetry and direct speech. The actors speak through microphones, sing, perform poetry or whisper to each other. The closer they get, the further they distance themselves from their words (‘Imagine. Touching.’) Every moment feels rich with meaning, as deep and unfathomable as that rippling Mikvah.

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