Written by multi-award winning writer Stephen Laughton, current Writer in Residence for the Astrophysics Department at the American Museum of Natural History, One Jewish Boy heads to the West End for four weeks only following its Old Red Lion Theatre sell-out success.
One Jewish Boy will run at Trafalgar Studios 10th March to 4th April 2020.
You’re bringing One Jewish Boy to Trafalgar Studios, what can you tell us about it?
Isn’t that exciting – but also kind of terrifying…? We were bowled over by the reaction at the ORL last year and by the last week, we were having to reconfigure the seating to get more people in, which was amazing that my little play seemed to resonate so well. So, with a little distance, I’ve had the opportunity to explore what the play means to me, what the play actually needs to be. In this new version of the play, there’s a shift in the world. Although it sometimes looks the same and at times sounds the same, in many ways, this is not the same play. On a practical level it’s really exciting to be given the opportunity to massively improve on what we did in a fundamental way, I’ve seen a lot of plays move and didn’t love them as much second time around. I do not want that to happen here, so whether you’re seeing it for the first time or coming again, I want you to find something new and exciting and visceral to get excited or to think about.
What inspired you to write this play?
The delivery mechanism of the play is a treatise on anti-Semitism, on rising anti-Semitism, which in turn is universal to pretty much all isms and obias. But it’s also a play about agency and accountability – a mid-thirties coming of age story if you will as two people try to navigate the next chapter of their lives in sometimes really tough situations – in both their inner and outer worlds. The discriminations and prejudices they both feel are insidious to them, there’s a commonality of course and a place of sharing where they both get it – but sometimes those commonalities get lost in all of the other bullshit in their lives – it’s essentially a play about two people from very different backgrounds just working out how to love one another, how to ask for the love they need…
Have there been any changes to the production since its 2018 Fringe run?
Yes! We’ve added on a year of the story for one…And the shape of the play has changed a little, so I’ve thrown the whole team a set of (hopefully exciting, perhaps infuriating. – sorry loves) challenges. I am blessed to have been working with an amazing team, who are all – bar our LD who we lost to the National (fair!) – coming back to the show, so it’ll be ‘kind of maybe sometimes the same’ but also different. Rooted in what we’ve done, but we (including the play) have all grown up a little bit more and want to smash the play out of the fringe into the real world… so it’s making sure we keep the energy the visceral sense of it, the sexiness but making sure we land this growing maturity.
Why do you think it’s so important that this story is told now?
The stats alone… The increasing, intensifying attacks in the UK, in Europe in the United States, has highlighted how anti-Semitism is surging in the 21st century in both common and distorted ways, kind of acting as the Venn diagram between left and right-wing ideologies…. I felt that first-hand last year – believe me…people were having a go at me for months just for writing the damn thing! We have rising global economic uncertainty, an emphasis on race and national identity, and a growing divergence between the political left and right over the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Meanwhile back home, on our doorstep, we have our two main parties in a political face-off over Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, deflecting their own problems/weak positions/lack of any real action back on to the other side and using tokenism to cover up the cracks… and although that’s not state-sponsored discrimination at Nazi-like levels, the apologetic and defensive language trickles down, out and across and enables something much more terrifying to erupt…I don’t want to be overly-dramatic (offstage) but the last couple of times these things came up, it didn’t get better, it got worse – and that never ends well for Jewish communities…
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as a writer in bringing One Jewish Boy to the stage?
Am I gonna make this land? Will I just sound like a whiny dickhead? How do I keep this interesting and dynamic at a domestic level? Am I just f*cking this up? I mean, all the usual stuff that goes through your head as a writer. It’s really important for me that the entity is the most important thing, it transcends any of the personal needs of anyone involved if that makes sense…? So it’s about finding the right balance, I want to write a loud, knotty, sexy, polemical, tour de force that gets under your skin and into your soul, I want you to fall in love with them but also want to bash their heads together… but the point has to land. We cannot let the shit happen again and we need to listen, when a community, any community, says I’m scared.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see One Jewish Boy?
Oh definitely come and see it. Even if you’re not into me, the design and the music is stunning… Plus Sarah is one of the most exciting directors in London, she spins gold so go see what she’s been toying with, and Asha and Rob are just stunning…so, yeah definitely come…
One Jewish Boy by Stephen Laughton will run at Trafalgar Studios 10th March to 4th April 2020.