Indecent review – a brainy play staged with the panache of a musical
Menier Chocolate Factory, London Seven actors share 42 roles in Rebecca Taichman’s stunning production of Paula Vogel’s Tony award-winner about a controversial queer Yiddish play
Contemporary plays can fall into intriguing conversation. Covering the same five decades of Jewish history as Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt, Paula Vogel’s Tony award-winner Indecent also begins with a controversial text being privately read in a European household. Stoppard starts in 1900 Vienna with characters scandalised by the Schnitzler script that became La Ronde; Vogel sets out from 1907 Poland with a dining-table read of God of Vengeance, a drama by a young Yiddish writer, Sholem Asch.
Now almost unknown, but globally successful enough to have reached Broadway in 1923, Asch’s work attracted opposing intolerance – antisemites finding it too Jewish, orthodox worshippers not Jewish enough – but thematically it was precociously tolerant. A lesbian love story sub-plot – the first on the American stage – brought US courts and Senate to the stage door.