Play: The Mighty Walzer by Howard Jacobson adapted by Simon Bent

Performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester and directed by Jonathan Humphreys - World Premiere

Set in Manchester in the 1950's, The Mighty Walzer is an adaptation of Howard Jacobson's novel. Semi-autobiographical in nature, we see life in a Jewish family with an adolescent boy. The pace of the play is beautifully handled with Elliot Levey taking the part of Oliver and seamlessly changing from participant to narrator and back, as Oliver looks back at his adolescence. Lacking in social skills and self- absorbed, Oliver is lured out by his father to sample the delights of the ping pong tournaments. Socially gauche, he proves to be a master of the table tennis table and meets kindred spirits.

    I found the play to be very enjoyable and entertaining.  I particularly enjoyed the visual gags, such as the toilet and cistern appearing from the theatre roof, as did the ping pong ball which hung in the air, tantalising. Oliver's parents' relationship was a great source of humour and Tracy-Ann Oberman as Oliver's mother was sharp tongued and sassy. The relationships within the family are complicated and the audience sees them unfolding through Oliver's eyes. His parents' hopes are lodged on him as he navigates his way towards Cambridge University and they are determined that he will make something of himself, no matter how unprepossessing the raw material might be.

    Simon Bent, who adapted the book for the stage, describes how he went about the task on the website artsdesk.com and his article can be read here. I was interested to read that he decided to abridge the original novel and stop after Oliver went off to University, although there is a hint at the end as to where Oliver has ended up. I did feel at the end, that there was more to find out about Oliver's life and  family, certainly not having tired of them in any way. 

In short: an entertaining look at family dynamics. 

Comments