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Review: A Big Day For The Goldbergs, The Carriageworks, Leeds, until July 28
TWO plays with the Jewish community of Leeds at their core have followed each other into the Carriageworks.
Promised Land, A Northern Love Story, has been and gone in late-June but it really should come back as it is the best Leeds community production since Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah – which came back twice.
Adapted from his book by Anthony Clavane with Nick Stimson, it draws parallels between the “robbed, cheated, cursed” Jews of the sweatshop days of Leeds in 1900 and the “robbed, cheated, cursed” Jewish-run Leeds United of Don Revie’s Seventies. All wrapped inside the 1974-75 love story of a latterday Billy Liar, would-be writer Nathan (Paul Fox) and a politically motivated singer-songwriter Caitlin (Lynsey Jones), who believes it is necessary to leave Leeds to make your mark.
This parochial play couldn’t make its mark outside Leeds, but the wit, songs, pathos and passion of Rod Dixon’s production for Red Ladder deserve another run, and still with a community cast. West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds Grand Theatre, take note.
Brian Daniels’ revised version of his debut play, A Big Day For The Goldbergs, is an intimate three-hander given a month-long run on the Carriageworks’ smallest stage, with a new second act for New End Theatre Beyond’s production.
It is in essence a Fringe show – one table, three chairs – with rather too many scenes involving cups of tea but plenty of heart and, yes, Jewish humour too in its story of two contrasting Leeds sisters, Lucille (Lizzie Carter Fox) and Michele (Michelle Ghatan) and their neurotic mother, Denise (Annie Sawle).
While Lucille follows the traditional route (nice Leeds house, rich Jewish husband, baby), Michele breaks away, heading for London, clowning school and lesbian love.
The production is notable for marking the return to Yorkshire of director Gareth Tudor Price after his controversial gardening leave and departure from Hull Truck’s artistic directorship in early 2011. He directs with plenty of fizz and fun, his cast relying on personality, rather than fixtures and fittings, to give Daniels’s play its big day.
It needs more work and better punchlines to go with its winning combination of surprises and vitality.
A Big Day For The Goldbergs, The Carriageworks, Leeds, until July 28; Promised Land, Leeds Carriageworks. Box office: 0113 224 3801.