The Hebrew Lesson/Unsent Lessons

4 June 2003 — 28 June 2003

A double bill of short plays from the Orange Tree Trainee Directors.

This summer the two trainees, David Roderick and John Terry, present a powerful and unusual double bill. It comprises the revival of a modern British classic by Wolf Mankowitz and the UK premiere of a Hungarian hit.

The Hebrew Lesson, by Wolf Mankowitz. Directed by David Roderick. Set in Ireland in 1921, this is the deceptively simple story of a young revolutionary who seeks shelter from an elderly refugee. Separated by their very different backgrounds they are united in their fear of the outside world. In a moment of crisis a decision has to be made: to defend a principle through violent or pacific means?

Exploring different cultures, languages and religions, this is a beautiful, evocative and poignant play that carries a powerful message about how to deal with conflict. Raised in London’s East End, Wolf Mankowitz was the son of a Russian Jewish immigrant. Known for his eclectic tastes and rather diverse body of work, Mankowitz often used his own experiences as source material for his writing. In his first novel, Make Me an Offer, he drew upon his first-hand knowledge as an antiques expert. Mankowitz was also heavily influenced by Yiddish folklore when writing his first screenplay A Kid for Two Farthings – a charming, semi-autobiographical series set in the Jewish quarter of London.

An author, playwright, and scriptwriter, Mankowitz is well known for his work on the 1959 Cliff Richard film Expresso Bongo, which satirised the new rock ‘n’ roll scene. Mankowitz also wrote The Day the Earth Caught Fire, science fiction through the eyes of Fleet Street journalists, in which legendary former Daily Express editor Arthur Christiansen played himself. Among his other screenplays are Black Beauty, Treasure Island, Casino Royale, and early drafts of Dr. No.

Unsent Letters by Andor Szilagyi. UK Premiere. Directed by John Terry. This is an extraordinary piece of Hungarian theatre, never before performed in English. Two characters repeatedly meet, fall in love, and part in a world of haunting noir and theatrical invention. Time is fluid as the play drifts through love, loss and missed opportunities beneath the light of a full moon on a station platform.

Drawing disparate influences from film noir to folk circus, this play is a moving and eerie encounter with a playwriting culture rarely seen on the London stage. A diverse cast that includes an internationally renowned virtuoso accordion player create a production that is a true clash of cultures.

"Funny, enigmatic, poignant." The Hungarian Quarterly

Born in Hungary on the 29th of May 1955, Andor Szilágyi graduated in history education from the Teacher Training College of Eger. He then went on to complete a degree in journalism through the National Association of Hungarian Journalists. Among his different occupations, Szilágyi has worked as a journalist, broadcasting manager, freelance writer, dramaturg, and art director. A highly respected playwright and screenwriter, Szilágyi’s work has been very successful in Hungary and continues to gain international recognition. Among his published works areUnsent Letters – published first in Budapest (1994) and later in Hungarian Plays by The International Collection of Nick Hern Books, London 1996, and Shalim – a novel that has been re-published in Budapest, Yugoslavia, Croatia, and Italy.

He has received many awards including ‘Szép Erno’ Award for playwriting in 1994 and 2nd Prize in the Hartley-Merrill International Screenwriting Prize in 2000 (USA). Most recently, Rose’s Song, written and directed by Szilágyi, received the award for ‘Best Screenplay’ at the 2003.