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Filthy Business review at Hampstead Theatre, London – ‘splendidly exuberant performances’

Dorian Lough and Babirye Bukilwa in Filthy Business at Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Dominic Clemence Dorian Lough and Babirye Bukilwa in Filthy Business at Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Dominic Clemence
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It’s a filthy business, building up a family firm from scratch in a foreign country. Spanning decades and delving deep into the aches and pains of the British immigrant experience, Ryan Craig’s rich new play charts the journey of one Jewish family’s rubber trading business, from boom to bust to bankruptcy. It’s Hobson’s Choice meets Only Fools and Horses, shot through with a Guy Ritchie, East London swagger: Lock, Stock and a healthy smattering of Yiddish insults.

Edward Hall’s spritely production boasts splendidly exuberant performances: Louis Hilyer and Dorian Lough are superbly weasel-like as a pair of warring brothers, but best of all is Sara Kestelman’s matriarchal Yetta, an indomitable slice of heavily-accented Slavic pragmatism, who scrimps and schemes to keep her family together and her business in the black.

Ashley Martin-Davis’ evolving, multi-level shop floor set maps the sixties, seventies and eighties with nostalgic style, while Hall’s direction delivers spade-loads of near-farcical humour, particularly in the breathless second half. If there’s a problem, it’s that Craig frequently overindulges, and any wider social relevance is lost among maelstroms of fights, fires and fleeting romances.

If he meant to write a rollicking story of intergenerational strife and familial love, he’s done so. And then some. If, though, he’s attempted to paint a wider picture of a changing London, he’s bitten off more than he can chew.

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A sprawling comedy drama about a feuding Jewish family and their ailing business