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One Jewish Boy review at Old Red Lion, London – ‘tenderly performed’

Robert Neumark Jones in One Jewish Boy at Old Red Lion, London. Photo: AF Photography
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Stephen Laughton’s moving play explores the relationship between Jesse (Robert Neumark Jones), a “nice Jewish boy from north London” and Alex (Asha Reid) a mixed-race girl from Peckham, showing how race, gender, class, culture, and, perhaps most importantly, fear impact on their lives.

Spread over a period of 15 years, the play hops about in time and the passage of years is signalled with neon writing and light boxes. Laughton uses this non-linear structure to provide a deep insight into the couple’s relationship, and Jesse’s crippling if understandable anxiety about antisemitism – as it threatens to become an obsession.

Though some of the scenes of their arguments drag on for too long, Sarah Meadows’ production is tenderly performed. Reid is particular good as Alex, countering Jesse’s fear by pointing out ingrained racism and misogyny with a wave of the hand. She movingly depicts Alex’s pregnancy and her drug-infused chatter is spot-on.

Meadows makes the intimate Old Red Lion feel larger than it is. The sound design also manages the pub’s acoustics by using bleed to great effect – it only adds to the atmosphere when Amy Winehouse covers drift up from the pub below.

Designer Georgia de Grey’s set consists of a transparent box – used to represent the inside of their flat (in London, Paris and New York) – and a margin of raised stage that represents the outside world. This design, with it edges and angles, mirrors the couple’s relationship as well as allowing the pair to metaphorically and literally hide from one another.

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Moving and tenderly performed two-hander about toxic relationships, fear and the damaging impact of antisemitism