News / Performance arts

First Jewish play at JW3 raises precision acting to new levels

London’s new Jewish cultural center is debuting a verbatim play with the actors wearing headphones to recreate original stories exactly.
Michelle Stimler Morris reports.

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‘Listen, We’re Family’ at JW3. Left to right: Tom Berish, Kerry Shale, Issy Suttie and Maggie Steed.

The first play at London’s new £50 million Jewish community centre, JW3, is a drama where actors perform in headphones to deliver dialogue as spoken by real people.

Listen, We’re Family was created by the award-winning Canadian actor Kerry Shale, 61, and theatre director Matthew Lloyd, 51, by interviewing Jewish families in London.

The show doesn’t have a script, instead playing a mastertape to the actors’ headsets with the pre-recorded interviewee speaking, so every sound and pause can be imitated.

Lloyd said that verbatim theatre allows the people to be represented authentically and there’s something “raw and gritty about that”.

Shale said: “There’s more controversial content than the spanking club [that a father organises in the family home]. There’s stuff about Israel and Judiasm because we gave people a platform to voice their memories and views. People might walk out.”

Also in the production in the JW3 centre on Finchley Road, are Maggie Steed, Tom Berish and Peep Show’s Issy Suttie. They portray five storylines about Jewish families featuring perspectives from multiple relatives of the same events.

Shale, who considers himself a “Jewish-Buddhist-Atheist”, said that the show “is a really good piece of theatre… nothing to do with Jewish or not”.

Although Lloyd himself is not Jewish, he wanted to bring out the “universal aspects of the project”.

“It’s really about how families work and how they screw us up. There’s a lot of love and a lot of hate but that’s what family is – it’s a kind of pressure cooker.”

Last year Shale and Lloyd collaborated on the Pilgrimage Project: I am a Pilgrim at Wilton’s Music Hall, which was a promenade style verbatim play.

Where: JW3 centre, 341-351 Finchley Road, London NW3 6ET
Price: £15
When: 10th-24th November
Further details: 020 7433 8988 or http://www.jw3.org.uk

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