The National Theatre’s latest play is a nostalgic love-letter about the birth of film and what American cinema owes to Jewish folk culture.
It opens with Hollywood director Maurice Montgomery looking back from 1936 to his formative years, making films in an eastern-European village (or shtetl).
As a youngster (then called Motl Mendl), he inherits his father’s cinematograph.
Despite his intentions to move away, he is convinced to stay and document local life by financier, timber-merchant Jacob.
Written by Nicholas Wright, it sometimes hits you over the head with comparisons between the pressures Mendl is under.
But mostly Wright finds the right balance between saccharine and cynicism.
Anthony Sher steals the show as Jacob, ably supported by Damien Molony (Mendl) and Paul Jesson (Montgomery) as well as the fantastic set, which evokes life in the shtetl brilliantly and allows Mendl’s films to be projected for us to see.
The films make Nicholas Hynter’s direction all the more impressive, letting us see what the characters are busy making.