Two Thousand Years, NT Cottesloe, London
Sunday 18 September 2005
Two Thousand Years is concerned with Israel, alluding to Arafat, Sharon and - coming right up to the minute - the Gaza Strip withdrawal.
However, the setting is a North London living-room: pastel sofas, bookshelves, sanded floors not sand-dunes.
This is home to Allan Corduner's Danny and his wife, Caroline Gruber's Rachel. They're an everyday, middle-class, secular Jewish couple, except their still-resident son, Ben Caplan's Josh, is weirdly reclusive, aggressive and, suddenly, alarmingly devout. His sister and grandad take the mick. Essentially, this is a domestic comedy-cum-serious play of ideas, for the family conflict over Josh's faith leads to debates about their being proud or ashamed to be Jewish today, about cynicism versus lasting ideals, their past experiences of kibbutz life, Old Labour socialism etc.
Two Thousand Years can feel slightly bland and the debates, though feasible, still sound like Leigh's chosen agenda. Rachel's returning prodigal sibling, Samantha Spiro's Michelle, is a caricatured whirl of neurotic egocentricity too. Nonetheless, this piece is culturally interesting, warmly funny and astute on liberals' limited tolerance, on family tensions and deep-seated loyalties and love. Corduner and Gruber are quietly excellent and John Burgess is a hilariously grumpy grandpa.
Caplan's skulking Josh is menacing when it's unclear if he's a dangerous zealot. Chekhovian elements surface as well and Caplan ultimately attains a Vanya-like poignancy - sitting in a corner playing chess with his father, precariously balanced between restored calm and despair.
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