Theatre Review: The Holy Rosenbergs at the National Theatre

The Israeli Palestine conflict is touchingly distilled into a family setting in Ryan Craig’s play THE HOLY ROSENBERGS at the National Theatre.

DAVID and Lesley Rosenberg are ebullient with psychotic energy as they try to force-feed the rabbi macaroons, cake and wafers.

Their daughter Ruth looks on incredulously - “You two are walking clich�s!” - but no amount of intervention from her can shield the poor man from her parents’ good intentions.

They crave approval, and it looks like they’re finally going to get it: at last the Rosenbergs’ kosher catering business is beginning to recover from a scandalous food-poisoning rumour and tomorrow the whole Edgware community will pay their respects at the funeral of their son Danny, who gave his life defending the homeland.

But the community is a fickle and demanding mistress, and the arrival back home of Ruth – a human rights lawyer and part of a UN report into Israeli and Palestinian war crimes - has caused considerable anger. The rabbi has in fact only been called in to discreetly persuade Ruth not to attend her brother’s burial for fear of disruption from pro-Zionist protesters.

Henry Goodman is electric as the patriarch David, putting on the fast-talking entertainer act to conceal a deep despair. Susannah Wise is excellent as the daughter and Tilly Tremayne plays the fraught but clucky mother with beautiful comic timing.

Opening just weeks after Channel 4’s The Promise, it seems Israeli-Palestinian issues are back on the public radar – but where C4’s take was expansive and global, Ryan Craig’s play is a touching distillation of a massive crisis into a family setting we can all recognise, Jewish or not.

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* Showing at the National Theatre, Cottesloe Theatre, South Bank, SE1.