Indecent REVIEW: A play about a play once labelled obscene

Celebrated throughout Europe, it arrived on Broadway in 1923 in a heavily censored English translation. The cast and producer were arrested and charged with obscenity. Paula Vogel’s drama with music tells the story of the play’s origins and its rocky passage across the stages of the world, suggesting parallels with regressive elements in modern times.

A play about a play seems culturally incestuous.

Indecent combines essential elements of the original play with the story of the actors, directors and producers (as well as Asch himself) who were involved at the time.

Seven actors and three musicians line up against the wall of the stage beneath a simple gilded proscenium arch as the play opens. 

Following the first reading of his GoV, Asch (Joseph Timms) is advised to burn the manuscript because “You’re pouring petrol on the flames of anti-Semitism.”

With the support of the unassuming Lemml (Finbar Lynch), Asch tours his play around Europe to great acclaim.

As the actors slip in and out of a variety of roles — the play is conducted in English with projected titles informing us which language they are supposedly speaking — the central relationships between the two leading actresses (Alexandra Silber and Molly Osborne) infects their ‘real’ lives.

Interludes of music and dancing contrast with stark images of the approaching Holocaust, including dust falling from their coat sleeves.

Notorious for including the first kiss between two women on a Broadway stage, God of Vengeance was celebrated and reviled in equal measure.

When the offending scene, conducted in the pouring rain, is finally revealed, it acts as a glorious and moving epitaph for all those involved as well as a plea for tolerance.

The Menier Chocolate Factory is back in action with all guns blazing.

● On until November 27, tickets: 020 7378 1713

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