Stephen Laughton’s semi-autobiographical monologue play about growing up as a gay Jewish teenager is given an energetic but strangely uncomfortable rendition by Jonathan Smeed on his Fringe debut.
Amid the New York-based playwright’s attempts to straddle space and time and the intensity of 18-year-old Smeed’s performance as 17-year-old Yonni, it seems to lose nuance and to strain understanding. The monologue feels awkward, the Hebrew intonation is a bit hit and miss, and maybe the hall’s high-ceilinged acoustics don’t help.
There’s a dense, stream-of-consciousness feel to Yonni’s journey, which one minute is in Golders Green in northwest London, where his physically abused mother, Devorah, is burning a kosher chicken in the kitchen and the next is in Dungeness in Kent, where he and his partner Adam bond over a beached whale, with the planets mysteriously getting into the mix.
At another point it flits off to Austria for some “kissing, tangled, knotted(-bodied) spooning” in a dorm, where they are found in bed by “Rabbi Dungeonmaster”; and there’s a mildly perplexing be-kippahed beating-up at the hands of characters named Dough, Slow and Ho.
It’s an hour-long show, so no mean feat for Smeed, from Gravesend in Kent, to get through it with only a few prompts from the director and producer Andrew Hogarth, but it was hard to feel the emotion his earnest performance strained so hard to elicit.
Run Lauriston Halls August 13-19 (not August 16)