Treasure at Finborough Theatre
With a maximum capacity of 50, Finborough Theatre is playing host to the UK premiere of Treasure, a new translation of the classic Yiddish play by David Pinski. Directed by the critically acclaimed Alice Malin, it is a tale of money and gossip, with family at its centre, and as such raises questions about the meaning of treasure and richness.
The first act centres on the family home. The small stage gives the audience a sense of the claustrophobia of poverty and an understanding of protagonist Tille’s (Olivia Bernstone) desire to escape. Bernstone plays an energetic and headstrong girl, who is bored of her life as a gravedigger’s daughter in a small Russian town. She delights in posing in the window, in hope of finding a husband, and in winding up her mother (Fiz Marcus) with a knowing lilt to everything she says. This mother-daughter relationship highlights the differences between the two and grabs the audience’s attention; Marcus’ face portrays worry in every sinew and Bernstone laughs with almost every line, unwilling to share mother’s concerns. The conversation between Tille, her father and capitalist Soskin, is particularly compelling as the patriarchy appears powerless while the money is in the girl’s hands. It is this interaction that really delivers the satirical bite that Yiddish theatre is renowned for.
The second act’s chaotic climax in the graveyard makes the audience feel they are part of the action, as the overarching themes of intense greed and the corrupting power of money exercise their influence on this small town. This is not an unfamiliar lesson and at times the moralising seems heavy-handed; the play treads a fine line between satirical criticism and almost pantomime dramatics. Through its use of storytelling, Treasure taps into the rich folk history of the Yiddish people. The presence of British accents create a sense that the roots of the play are in some way lost, but conversely this helps to avoid caricature.
An unsettling watch, it leaves the viewer feeling they have been disciplined for human greed, and a little confused as to why.
Photo: Richard Lakos
Treasure is on at Finborough Theatre from 20th October to 14th November 2015, for further information or to book visit here.