City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

New Theatre From The Jewish Diaspora

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 08 August 2007

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JMI comes to Edinburgh
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Howard Rypp (director), Issac Bashevis Singer (writer), Saul Bellow (translator), Ron Wiseman (composer), Stuart Olsberg and Ron Wiseman (musicians), Ilana Cohen (costume designer), Noam Toplian (lighting), Tal Orevi (stage manager)
Howard Rypp with the voices of Gilya Stern, Ma'ayan Rypp, maytal Derman, Ron Wiseman, Michael Schneider, and Blair Portnoy

Nephesh Theatre promises 'New Theatre from the Jewish Diaspora'. The company have five plays in English which they intend to tour in Europe in 2008. One of these is 'Gimpel The Fool', appearing as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Possibly one of the late Isaac Bashevis Singer's better-know short stories, Gimpel is the 'holy fool' of Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition, the one who is true to themselves in a world of the smugly self-deluded.

Ably portrayed here by Howard Rypp, Gimpel stumbles through a life where he is regularly made the butt of other people's thoughtless humour. Married off to the already pregnant local good-time girl, Gimpel becomes more decent and humane the more he is cheated and deceived. Much of Singer's work focuses on what acting well in a wicked world actually means, and 'Gimpel The Fool' remains one of the most genuinely accessible of his many short stories.

This is a tight, workman-like production of high standards, the one-person play almost as an art-form on its own terms. Rypp's characterisation works largely well, although there are moments when one wonders if a slightly less pleasantly personable Gimpel would make us appreciate the locals temptation to make him such a frequent butt of their boorish humour. However, Rypp does remain remarkably faithful to both the spirit and structure of Singer's story and delivers a strong, thoughtful performance in his portrayal of Gimpel.

As this reviewer's Jewish director friend frequently reminds "there's nothing wrong with entertainment" and while 'Gimpel The Fool' is perhaps not the profoundest of Singer's stories, it provides great entertainment and a great opportunity for translation to the stage. Nephesh Theatre are due thanks for doing so.

Time: 3-12 August, 3.45pm
Copyright Bill Dunlop 2007, published on 2007