Julian Eaves reviews Sholom Aleichem In The Old Country at the Lion and Unicorn Pub Theatre.
Sholom Aleichem In The Old Country
Lion and Unicorn Pub Theatre
3rd November 2018
One-man shows are in plentiful supply in London’s theatreland, not least on the fringe, and whether actor Saul Reichlin and his director Victor Sobchak are aware of this or not, standards are high and, as a consequence, so are expectations. If you are going to go out there and take up the attention of an audience you had better be prepared with something worth their while. Sadly, this 75-minute chat from the writer of the stories upon which the musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was based never convinced me that they really knew what they were about, or even that they much cared about the impact they were making on the audience.
The minimal design (uncredited) and lighting (also uncredited) that waxed and waned like an impulsive and erratic moon did them no favours, but the real absence here was any sense that they had a ‘theatrical’ story to tell. Anyone sitting through this long and monotonous recitation will find it hard, not to say utterly impossible, to divine how and why Bock and Harnick managed to turn these wafer-thin slices of shtetl life into the blockbuster musical of the 60’s that still exerts such compelling fascination.
Nonetheless, the show has – we are told – won awards here and there, and run for umpteen performances around the world, including Off-Broadway. I cannot imagine why. Perhaps Mr Reichlin has had more energy and stage presence in the past. Who knows? He doesn’t demonstrate any in this production. One to avoid, I think; a message that the many empty seats around me suggested has already reached the ears of those who care about such things.
Until 25 November