A secular Jewish family - Ezra, his sister Noya, and their mother Ellen – sit around a Seder dinner table. Following a list of instructions freshly printed from ‘BadJewsDoPassover.com’. the trio blunder through the sacred religious tradition, centred around remembrance of the oft-forgotten. A deeply buried secret, however, lurks beneath this comical veneer.
Stella Green’s script oozes intrigue from the outset. The idea of the family’s ‘missing year’ in 2004 is carefully developed. What begins with a seemingly innocuous missing photograph of a bad haircut gradually descends into conspiracy against Ezra. And yet, this spiral makes perfect sense. Why can’t Ellen - who religiously purchased her children’s school photographs each year - explain the lost picture?
The siblings, Levi Mattey as Ezra and Hannah Churchill as Noya, master the balance between affection and awkward interaction, and Florence Elliot excels as the matter-of-fact mother Ellen. Indeed, the strong cast hides the challenging nature of this piece, whether in Mattey’s convincing portrayal of traumatic stress disorder, or in Yann Davies’ silent, impish Boy. As such, the viewer is entirely immersed, practically seated in the fourth chair of this family dinner table.
Aesthetically, it’s faultless. Every minute detail in the costume, staging, and lighting is purposeful. The colour coordination even extends down the washing-peg bag – green silk with bright orange ribbons. The visuals – both stark and implicit – become all the more haunting as Ezra's secret is slowly revealed, leading up to the final harrowing realisation. A bright orange party hat stands in for the missing image on Ezra’s photograph timeline, before Davies appears on stage dripping wet, in nothing but a similarly-hued pair of trunks. Jarring music and light is also used sparingly in moments of great suspense, and to great effect.
Everything about EZRA is subtle, which only amplifies its effect. Through equally captivated script and production, the story of this single Jewish family transcends into a universally haunting experience.
EZRA runs at Bedlam Theatre until 14 November 2019.