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Review: You Don't Have to be Jewish at the Bondi Pavilion

Review by Michelle Fisher

The Bondi Pavillion may still be growing its name in the Sydney theatre scene but this week, ‘You Don’t Have to be Jewish,’ found a perfect home for its audience in this great new Eastern Suburbs theatre and the community certainly came out to support!

After a three year hiatus, the Bondi Theatre Company has returned to the stage with their revival of this 1965 show, taken from the Bob Booker album. Featuring Geoff Sirmai, Liz Hovey, Andrea Ginsberg, James Burchett, Christine Greenough and David Spicer, the cast works hard through their 90 minutes on stage through many a costume change and a great number of props.

As an ensemble, the group works well together proving their talents and the strong direction by Ruth Fingret who has done well in creating a great sense of cohesiveness amongst the cast and has worked well to navigate the many scene changes. The jokes are rapid fire and though some are evidently clumsy, by and large, the scene changes are well executed with quick changeovers.

The accent work is hit and miss. Whilst some are well polished and clearly considered, other accents fall trap to stereotype and prove overdone. Whilst I commend all the actors for giving the accents a good go, a show like this would certainly have benefited from an accent and dialogue coach to really elevate the quality of the production.

The inclusion of live music was a clever choice and having the keyboardist featured on stage certainly heightened the piece, offering a clever distraction when the scenes needed more set up time. The set is simple and clearly reliant on props to maintain visual interest.

For much of the 60 yr plus audience this was a trip down Nostalgia Lane – a record that used to play in their houses as they were growing up or in fact they were the ones actually playing the records for their kids to listen to and they seemed to enjoy a good laugh or a little groan as the well-known punch lines were dropped. Sadly, I think though for many others the humour was old and predictable and suffered from being 58-year-old humour no matter how funny it may have been at its inception.

A new inclusion towards the end of the show is a voice recording of an interview that David Spicer has done with Bob Booker himself - now 92 where he talks about the early success of the show and recounts a “cute “ episode where someone tries to tell him a good joke…no spoilers here … go see the show to find out more!

Ultimately, I feel this show fell short of the hype. It is missing polish in its production elements and a level of professionalism that we have come to expect from the Sydney Independent Theatre scene. For the price of the ticket, more is needed to elevate this production so that it need not simply rely on the goodwill of the community in attendance, but can stand its own as a strong piece of theatre.

Definitely a show for a dedicated and specific audience, it comes at a time when many are appreciative of a comedic distraction (even if you have heard the jokes many times before) from the news of the day and a chance to sit and relax and laugh (or groan) as a community.

Image Credit: Lindsay Kearney


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