Antisemitism: a (((musical)))


Entering a musical about the complex theme of Antisemitism, one doesn’t really know what to expect. Is it a concept-driven piece or does it weave a narrative? Will it serve as an exploration of the multifaceted manifestations of Antisemitism? Is the tone dark and somber or does it navigate this serious issue with a touch of levity? The remarkable answer to all these questions is a resounding “yes.”

“Antisemitism: A Musical” follows the journey of Eliahu, portrayed by the talented Maya Kristal Tenenbaum, as he relocates from Israel to London. The narrative unfolds through the engaging narration of two charismatic guides, played by Amy Parker and Molly Lynch, who not only provide insight into the cultural disparities but also seamlessly slip into the roles of various characters that Eliahu encounters.

It’s essential to note that the performance I witnessed was a semi-staged concert version due to cast illness. Remarkably, the cast transformed this challenging situation into an advantage, infusing the production with a cabaret-style ambiance filled with lively audience interactions, clever fourth-wall breaks, and humorous interludes. One recurring element was the presentation of antisemitic tweets, rendered in a jingle-like manner and projected on the screen behind the performers, ingeniously infusing a comedic twist into a deeply serious issue. The play masterfully presents contradictory viewpoints, particularly with the tweets, prompting the audience to reflect on the blurred line between hurtful words and potential acts of violence.

One of the highlights of the show is a parody of YMCA, addressing the intricacies of the IHRA working definition of antisemetism. This cleverly illustrates the ongoing debate where those who endorse it continue to grapple with its flaws, while those who oppose it argue for its necessity, emphasizing the absence of a universally accepted definition of Antisemitism. Another standout moment arrives with the song “White but Not Quite,” where the protagonist delves into the challenges of assimilating into English society, despite the paradox of enjoying white privilege while recognizing their distinctiveness. As the curtain falls, the production leaves us pondering the essence of Jewish identity and questioning what is the unifying factors that bind the Jewish people. The lingering presence of an “Antisemitism” sign in the background makes the answer abhorrently clear.

The music, crafted by Uri Agnon, skilfully traverses various styles, from heartfelt ballads to lively comedic numbers. Parker, and Lynch’s acting shines as they infuse personality into the narrators and seamlessly transition into different characters using props and accents. Tenenbaum delivers a stellar performance, taking on the challenging task of acting mostly opposite herself, which she executes flawlessly.

At times, the show feels somewhat simplistic, with exposition rather than immersive portrayal, but this may be attributed to its concert format. “Antisemitism: A Musical” bravely sheds light on diverse forms of Antisemitism, ranging from overt to subtle, at times so discreet that it might escape notice. Tackling such a complex and sensitive topic is an ambitious undertaking, and more often than not, the production succeeds in delivering its message with a blend of humor and emotional resonance. The musical offers a compelling exploration of what it truly means to be Jewish, and its conclusion powerfully underscores that, regardless of differing opinions and practices within the Jewish community, Antisemitism remains constant. Sadly, it becomes apparent that the show’s intention to raise awareness about subtle and often unnoticed Antisemitism in the UK might not reach the very audience that needs it most, as acknowledged in one of the clever fourth-wall breaks.