“… it is profound and moving but it is laced with humour and its message is uplifting” ***.5
My Editor said to me, “with the Armenian genocide as a central theme it might be a tough watch”. Surprisingly, and I don’t mean to sound glib, it wasn’t. Sure enough it is profound and moving but it is laced with humour and its message is uplifting.
For my sins I really didn’t know where Armenia was, so was terribly grateful for the map in the programme. I also knew very little of the Armenian genocide, that took place between 1915 - 18.
The play concerns two Armenians who resettle in Milwaukee after 1920. Aram (George Javanovic) is a photographer who, using the equivalent today of Tinder, acquires a 15-year-old bride from an Istanbul orphanage called Seta (Zarima McDermott). The piece then chronicles their life together with the backdrop of the Armenian genocide as an ever-present motif.
Aram welcomes Seta to his home. He has a photograph of his family as a centre piece. The faces on the photograph are blank. This mystery is resolved during the evening. I found myself welling up when Aram makes Seta set down her most precious doll, given to her by her mother, as a sign from him that she is no longer a child. The narrator of the piece (Hayward B Morse), who is our guide, then becomes a young American boy who the couple befriend. In a way it is a small, domestic piece but its themes are far reaching.
The acting from all concerned is exemplary. And yet I do have reservations. I found the piece slow and to a certain extent indulgent. Some judicious cuts wouldn’t have gone amiss.
I also –and I could punch myself for saying this- found the narrator becoming a small boy risible. (it worried me for most of the second half that he didn’t put on Aram’s trousers when he was given them. Blame my warped personality not the production!)
The set design and costume of Sarah Jane Booth is absolutely brilliant. Simple yet so effective.
It’s not a great play but it is an important one.
Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED
No booking fees on online, personal or postal bookings
Box Office 01223 357851. (Calls are free. There will be a 5% booking fee.) Lines are open Monday– Saturday 10.00am-6.00pm.
Tuesday, 29 January – Saturday, 23 February 2019
Performance Length: Approximately two hours with one interval of fifteen minutes.
Reviewer Richard Braine is actor, director and playwright.
As an Actor he has worked extensively throughout the country including Chichester Festival Theatre, Manchester Royal Exchange, Birmingham Rep, and Stephen Joseph Theatre in Yorkshire. His Television and Film credits include: “Calendar Girls”, “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies”, “Finding Neverland”, “Bridget Jones”, “Suspicions of Mr Whicher”, “Mr Selfridge” and many years ago Gussie Fink-Nottle in “Jeeves and Wooster”. He has also filmed over 150 Commercials all over the world.
He has directed the European premiere of Sternheim/Martin “The Underpants” at The Old Red Lion Theatre and written three plays: “Being There with Sellers”, “Bedding Clay Jones” and “Sexing Alan Titchmarsh”.