‘KVETCH’ by Steven Berkoff is an in-your-face coarse, irreverent, foulmouthed comedy, but still be the funniest show you will see in years. It is aimed at a select audience of patrons who do not mind a great deal of politically incorrect dialogue and taboo subjects in detail.
Berkoff (born Leslie Steven Berks in 1937) having dozens of films and television plays on his resume, is an instantly recognisable actor, but one that few can put a name to. He wrote this comedy masterpiece 46 years ago, basing the play in Stephney in the east end of London, where many of the population were Russian Jewish refugees. After a brief spell in America, where his father tried unsuccessfully to find work, the family returned to London.
This show was staged 16 years ago at The Bakery with virtually the same admirable cast, and it is really wonderful to see these very well-known faces rising from the dead to bring us this five-laughs-a-minute show.
This unique 75-minute, fastmoving one act play is presented by The Wembley Theatre Company at the Kaos Room at The Blue Room Theatre, in Northbridge on the 13, 14 and 15th October at 7.30 pm, and then The Goodwill Club, in The Rechabites Hall, 224 William Street, Northbridge on the 19, 20 and 21st October 7.00 pm.
If you have not been in the Rechabites for several years, be prepared for a shock. It has a smart ballroom – if that is still the correct term – several bars and a top-notch restaurant. This play was staged in the disco room in the basement.
There are many Jewish terms used throughout the play, the title Kvetch means whinger. A Goy is a derogatory word for a non-Jew. Shiksa derogatory for a gentile woman. Most of the terms can be understood in the context.
The Scene: East end of London, in the rundown house that is home to a middle-aged couple and their obnoxious relative.
Set: Four white wooden chairs a dining table with a large thick, white linen tablecloth.
The style of the play is one of normal dialogue but coupled with an action freeze when an actor, as an aside, will express their actual thoughts or anger. The ultimate in schadenfreude.
Middle-aged Frank (Peter Clark) has just returned home from his tiresome job of selling imported material to rich arrogant and underserving businessmen like George (Mike Hodgen).
Frank’s beautiful bubbly wife, Donna (Summer Williams) greets him and asks him to take a seat at the table as his meal is almost ready. After a terrible day at work and fighting through the traffic Frank is at breaking point. He smiles at Donna; says how much he is looking forward to her superb delicacies and then turns to the audience to gives us the genuine facts about her diabolical cooking. Frank sits next to an old woman dressed in widow’s weeds. She is his mother-in-law (Helen Munt) a sour faced woman with unsavoury habits.
Next day at work, Frank is talking to Hal (Matt Penny) who has sadly just lost his wife. To cheer him up Frank invites Hal back to the house for a meal – without warning Donna. A dangerous move!
Directed with limitless imagination by Bryce Manning this play gallops along at a cracking pace. From the Kvetch Frank, the miserable mother, a fawning wife and the quiet caring Hal, the laughs get louder and more frequent. This cast have some difficult tongue-tying lines to tackle and others that you would not wish to repeat at home. Peter was manic as Frank, for the whole play he had steam coming from his ears. Broken hearted Hal (Matt) was delightful as the kind loving friend who put on a brave face whilst inwardly crumbling. Summer was taken way out of her comfort zone as she gave lengthy revelations about her most intimate love life and desires. Great support from Helen and Mike as the other cogs in the broken machine.
We all have to admit we have workmates and relatives that we have to hold back on, and not to say what we really think. The dialogue is cruel and at time horrendous BUT so funny. This play says things that you just wish you had the courage to voice yourself.
If you missed this masterpiece it will probably be round again in another 16 years.
Fabulous much-loved cast with humour at its absolute best, delivered immaculately.