Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Dramatic insight into the lives of Belfast Jews

The Bad Plus: the Coen brothers meets a jazz trio

The mixed fortunes of Belfast’s Jewish community will form the background of one of the festival’s more unusual productions this year — a new play being performed at the city’s synagogue.

This Is What We Sang, by the Kabosh Theatre Company, previews tonight at the impressive, but little-visited building on the Somerton Road.

For the city’s dwindling Jewish population it will be an opportunity to show the wider community a faith which has been largely hidden behind Northern Ireland’s other religious ‘concerns’ in recent years.

“As with our non-Jewish neighbours, friends and relatives, the word ‘community’ for Jews is not an easy concept, covering as it does a multitude of expectations, aspirations and restrictions,” says Katy Radford, a member of the synagogue.

The production forms part of a wider initiative, named Jews Schmooze, which is aimed at opening up Jewish art and culture to a wider audience.

It is based on collections of oral histories from members of the Jewish community here.

“The process of creating This Is What We Sang was slow — and rightly so,” says Ms Radford.

“A number of people from the community became involved in discussions with the theatre company to ensure that the content, narrative and production value would be something which would be appropriate for the venue.”

In 1992 the play’s author Gavin Kostick also wrote a thought-provoking work called The Ash Fire, set amongst the Jewish community of 1930s Dublin, the city to which his Polish grandparents had emigrated.

This Is What We Sang previews tonight at 8pm and the run will continue until October 29, although there will be no performances during the Jewish Sabbath on Friday and Saturday evenings.

On to music now, and The Guardian newspaper described The Bad Plus in a novel way, declaring that if the Coen Brothers assembled a jazz trio, it might sound like this — the comic and the dramatic all rolled in together.

These three affable Americans are as likely to launch into one of their own distinctive compositions as to go off on one of their interpretations of classics by performers such as David Bowie, Bjork or the Bee Gees.

The show takes place in the Spiegeltent tonight at 8pm.

Meanwhile, the visual arts section of the festival offers some significant exhibitions spread right across the city.

Belfast Print Workshop is also joining hands with the Engramme print studio in Quebec, which last year made a significant contribution to its city’s 400th anniversary. You can see the results of this exciting collaboration at the Gallery in the Cathedral Quarter’s Cotton Court from tomorrow for a month.

www.belfastfestival.com

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