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Mikvah Project makes seamless switch

11 June, 2020 — By Lucy Popescu

IT is some measure of a writer’s versatility when their theatre work transfers effortlessly to radio.

Josh Azouz’s The Mikvah Project was first staged at the Yard in Hackney in 2015. It began its run at the Orange Tree in March, directed by Georgia Green, but had to shut down prematurely. Now it has been adapted for radio, directed by Green but using different actors.

Every Friday at the same time, two Jewish men immerse themselves in the sacred water of their local mikvah, luxuriating in the cleansing ritual.

Seventeen-year-old Eitan (Josh Zaré, pictured) is on the brink of adulthood – still a boy in many ways – but that does not stop him falling for Avi (Alex Waldmann), 35, married to Leyla and director of communications for a human rights charity.

They are worlds apart – on Shabbat, Eitan goes clubbing, eying up the girls (secretly yearning for love) while Avi shares dinner with his wife, before settling down for their weekly argument about Gaza and attempts to conceive a baby.

The men strike up an unlikely friendship, also meeting at their synagogue, but soon their naked proximity at the baths begins to wreak havoc on their sexual desire. Their rhythmic immersing becomes almost seductive. Eitan steals a kiss and before long he’s invited Avi to accompany him to Alicante.

Azouz plays with narrative perspective, as the men introduce themselves, announce their exits and entrances, share thoughts, indulge their dreams and fantasies and spar. In a neat metafictional twist, Avi and Eitan argue about whether the mikvah should be based in Stamford Hill or Hampstead Garden Suburb.

The seamless switch between the third and first person in their exchanges creates a vivid sense of their drift towards and apart from each other. One is always watching or being watched.

The Mikvah Project is a courageous play, navigating thorny subjects from forbidden sexual desire to the limits of intergenerational relationships.

  • The Mikvah Project will be on BBC Radio 4, June 14, 3pm

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