It is an altogether rare thing to feel at ease when treading upon unfamiliar territory. In the case of EZRA, not only is the script a fresh and untested creation, but the subject matter in itself is one that many are more ignorant to than they would care to disclose. Thankfully, it becomes abundantly clear from the opening exchanges that we are in the hands of a master craftswoman who knows her subject and, perhaps more importantly, how to translate this subject into a literate and heartfelt experience.
Written and directed by Stella Green, EZRA was born out of a lack of Jewish representation in and around the University of Edinburgh campus, along with the startling revelations regarding anti-Semitism within certain factions of the political landscape. Here, Green has created an important and razor-sharp piece of work that tickles and haunts in equal measure, giving a voice to the all-too-often voiceless in a tale of forgotten histories and an examination of the consequences of rediscovery and reconnection.
A secular Jewish family have gathered together in attempt to celebrate Seder passover. The problem, however, is that they’re really not good at it. They haven’t got eggs, their Hebrew isn’t up to scratch and some things are, well, just too finicky to be bothered with. Still, their history is important and their traditions act as a reminder of that history – even though some things, as soon becomes all too clear, have been repressed with good reason.
Dialogue is often unremarked upon unless it is especially clunky or overly thought-out, but EZRA is so peppered with wit and glitter that it brings a smile to my face even after while reflecting upon it. An early gag about parmesan cheese has the audience in stitches, and that is just the start of what appears to be an endless line of electric banter, never succumbing to laziness or pausing for an opportunity to dwindle.
Such lines, of course, would be utterly put to waste were it not for the vehicles of their delivery. The performances by the young cast are all excellent, though a special mention must go to Florence Elliot who plays Ellen, the mother and architect of the occasion. This wonderful actor delivers her lines with such effortless charisma that it is almost surprising to know that she was not coming up with them all on the spot. Her mind always seems to be elsewhere and yet she is the sharpest tool in the box – as all mothers, quite undoubtedly, usually are.
The tone does shift, edging to a more darker field, around the half-way mark. It is here where the piece slightly loses its charm – perhaps because of the strength of the comedic first half – though what it lacks comically is made up exponentially in unexpected depth, creative flexibility and courage.
EZRA only has a short run at the Bedlam Theatre, but if justice prevails this will not be the last we hear of it. It is an pertinent, lovingly assembled and touching piece of theatre that everybody should have the opportunity to see, feel and hear.