Monday, April 22

We Wish You Long Life – Synagogue Scratch at Manchester Jewish Museum

Performing as part of Manchester Jewish Museum’s inaugural Synagogue Scratch season, We Wish You Long Life, written by Amy Lever and directed by Helen Parry, explores cultural integration, shared memory, and family ties, when Steven (Robin Simpson), raised Catholic, is brought begrudgingly by his wife, Mary (Orline Riley), to a Jewish house of mourning for a person he doesn’t seem to remember. Father and daughter, David (Danny Ryder) and Katie (Lever), await the arrival of the Irish Catholic side of their family whilst food caterer Karen (Tilly Sutcliffe) begins to wonder if this is the strangest event ever.

A Q&A session with the writer, director, and cast followed which provided useful background on the piay which began life as a ten-minute piece as part of a short play festival ‘One Play One Day’ produced by Reload Theatre Company in which six short plays were written, rehearsed, and performed to a live audience, all within twenty-four hours. Lever has subsequently chosen to extend the piece to forty minutes with director Parry being introduced to help shape the delivery.

The themes and ideas explored are of great interest and relevance but combined felt too much for what is effectively a short play that can only allow a short glimpse at characters behaviours and motivations rather than giving them and the themes to develop.

The background to the play is an important aspect as Lever, rightly for the purposes of the original festival, worked closely with her then cast to develop verbatim content that could be easily moulded, learnt and delivered to suit the tight timescales. The subsequent extension of the play’s length has resulted in elements being added rather than the original piece or its content being developed and given greater depth.

I would encourage and welcome the development of the play into a fuller length piece (80+ minutes) but there needs to be a tightening of its focus to one or two issues to avoid spreading itself thinly, which I think Lever recognises and accepts, and I would go as far as to suggest starting with a blank piece of paper to develop the ideas and provide the necessary depth rather than adding to the work already done; certainly a collaboration that draws upon the extensive experience that Parry offers would help to facilitate this.

A mostly new cast, or original members playing different roles, performed well with Simpson notably strong as he caught the underlying mood, emotion, and challenges that his character, Steven, often unknowingly faces.

Lever is a Mancunian Jewish actor and writer who recently graduated from the University of Cambridge and is passionate about telling northern contemporary stories.

Reload Theatre Company are based in Manchester and will be running their next ‘One Day One Play’ event on 29th April at the Lions Den Manchester.

Manchester Jewish Museum is a place to experience and explore how we are different, together. In doing so it looks to spark reaction and change and to make real the knowledge that there is more that binds us together than separates us. It also operates a fantastic café that will tantalise your taste buds ahead of any event with its contemporary vegetarian kosher-style menu using local produce and authentic Jewish and vegetarian ingredients. For more information https://www.manchesterjewishmuseum.com/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 2nd April 2023

North West End UK Rating: Scratch performance

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