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Treasure review at the Finborough Theatre, London – ‘overly drawn-out’

Olivia Bernstone in Treasure at Finborough Theatre, London. Photo: Richard Lakos Olivia Bernstone in Treasure at Finborough Theatre, London. Photo: Richard Lakos

The Finborough has unearthed a classic of Yiddish theatre in this satirical play by David Pinski written in the early 1900s. As an example of a once popular and influential cultural form now all but forgotten, as a window into theatre history, there’s a lot here that’s fascinating and admirable. As an enjoyable dramatic experience in its own right, it’s arguably less successful.

The family of a poor gravedigger come across a small sum of money. It turns out there may be more cash to be had but it’s buried somewhere and the only person who knows where, their disabled, damaged son, isn’t saying. Despite this, daughter Tille can’t resist spending some of it; she wants to feel what it is to be rich, if only for a short time. Of course, the minute word gets out about their windfall, all the pillars of their small community flock to their door, eager to dip their hand in the pot.

Populating the tiny stage with a vast cast, director Alice Malin conveys the cacophonous nature of the play. The character of Tille, as played by Olivia Bernstone, is a really intriguing creation, a confident young woman with a strong sense of her own wants and needs, but the piece as a whole never quite finds a workable register for all this, or at least not one that can be sustained over a play of this length, and because everything is played to full volume throughout, the production begins to feel slightly wearying after a while, a bit of a schlep.

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An intriguing and ambitious, if overly drawn-out, revival of a forgotten classic of Yiddish theatre