facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

Beau Jest

First Published 9 May 2008, Last Updated 9 May 2008

James Sherman’s light-hearted, sweet romantic comedy has been a huge hit Stateside for years, yet this is the first time it has been produced in the UK, writes Caroline Bishop. The playwright himself was in the Hackney Empire audience to see how the Jewish humour went down in London, in this premier production directed by the Empire’s pantomime veteran Susie McKenna.

McKenna may be known for her rambunctious festive fare, but with Beau Jest the director shows a subtler side as she tackles a piece which is touchingly innocent in its scenario, gentle in its humour, and heart-warming in its conclusion.

Set in 1980s Chicago, this play in three acts follows the story of kindergarten teacher Sarah Goldman, whose desire to please her loving parents gets her into a bit of a romantic pickle.

The play opens with Sarah chatting to Bob, who we would assume is her boyfriend – that is, until her real boyfriend Chris turns up at the door. Bob, in fact, is an escort from the Heaven Sent agency, who Sarah has hired to impersonate a Jewish boyfriend. All because Chris’s gentile status doesn’t impress Sarah’s parents – so she told them she broke up with him. But they are coming to dinner, you see, and want to meet Sarah’s new boyfriend, who she invented to avoid her mum’s matchmaking attempts. But just as they arrive, Sarah finds out to her horror that Bob, who she thought was Jewish, actually isn’t.

It may be a tad unrealistic, but it is easy to suspend disbelief and indulge in the easy humour of this Friends-style sitcom set-up, which paves the way for an evening of misunderstandings, Jewish in-jokes and familial relations. Actor and escort Bob – under the assumed name Dr David Steinberg – enjoyably veers his way through the minefield of dinner with Sarah’s parents, narrowly convincing them of his status as a surgeon (hearts, brains, everything really), while Sarah nervously flaps about, sure they are about to be found out. During the course of this and subsequent family gatherings, Bob and Sarah begin to fall in love for real.

The humour and customs may be Jewish – a Seder meal is even performed on stage – but that makes it no less enjoyable for a gentile audience. Sue Kelvin’s larger-than-life Miriam – all purple velour tracksuit, orange hair and gold jewellery – is more than recognisable to anyone with a matchmaking mother, as is the circular bickering between Miriam and well-fed husband Abe (Jack Chissick). Lara Pulver plays Sarah as a sweet, demure young woman who is just trying too hard to please, while Adam Rayner relishes the comedic role of Bob/David.

While the scenario is farcical, the production always stays the right side of ridiculous. Likewise, designer Becs Andrews alludes to the 80s setting without being too obvious – an Athena poster here, a Lycra mini-dress there. There is nothing brash about this play (apart from Miriam’s clothes); rather, it is a gentle comedy which allows an evening of escapism to a previous, more innocent time.

CB

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.