Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon spoke to Saul Reichlin about bringing Sholom Aleichem In The Old Country to London.
Saul thanks so much for talking to me. Could you tell me a bit more about what Sholom Aleichem in The Old Country is about? This production, uniquely, follows the adventures of Sholom Aleichem himself. Previously life was seen through the eyes of his characters, made famous to the world at large by Fiddler On The Roof, but before that, known and loved by the Jewish population who had his stories read to them (in Yiddish) and who adored him.
How did the idea for the show come about? As a child I was taken by my parents to see an actor perform Sholom Aleichem, but it was only many years later, when I found a little book of the stories, that I thought this might suit my one-man show work, and so it has proved.
How are you feeling about the show getting its UK premiere? I feel a responsabilty I did not feel before, because I have the success of the first show to live up to, and once again it is new material, with only my belief in its simply wonderful writing to recommend it.
What is it about Sholom Aleichem that fascinates you? No matter how dreadful life can be, as indeed it was for his generation in Tsarist Russia, he never lost the ability to bring the warmth and humour of his work to everyone, to give people something to smile about. When one of his characters was recounting tales of the Cossack pogroms (slaughter of Jews) another character replies, ‘But enough of all those depressing stories, lets talk of more cheerful things. How’s the cholera in Odessa these days?’.
What do you think that audiences will take away from Sholom Aleichem in the Old Country? I hope they will have an experience similar to the audiences of the first show, just glowing, and happy they saw the show, and eager to tell others about it!
What can audiences expect from the production? The story is a visit to another time, another place. In this case, it is Kasrilevke, the Anatevka of Fiddler On The Roof, from which so many of us, myself included, emanate. Life in the West (for the Jewish population, anyway) owes its existence largely to the generations of East European Jews who escaped persecution. It is a glimpse of what life might have been like for them, if they survived. It is a brief return to our Roots, and a look at what might have been.
Sholom Aleichem in the Old Country will play at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre from the 30th October until the 25th November. For more information visit: http://lionandunicorntheatre.co.uk/sholom-aleichem-in-the-old-country