This week, Steven Berkoff’s ‘KVETCH’ is coming to the Burton Taylor Studio. According to the website, this is a play “dedicated to the afraid” – the fear of “impotence, unemployment, losing your hair, getting fat, parking tickets, isolation, learning the piano, telling a joke, sweat, grease, dark cupboards, sex, fear of men, fear of women, fear of fear.” KVETCH explores the anxieties, fantasies and frustrations of a Jewish family in their claustrophobic 1980s Brooklyn apartment. Yet fear not – KVETCH is not a pessimistic play. Cherwell Stage talked to the director Ellen Page who reassured us that the ‘balloon breasts’ and whoopee cushions prevent any misery dampening this comedy.
The term ‘kvetch’ comes from the Yiddish ‘kvetshn’ and means a person who complains too much. Ellen is certain we can all relate to this; in answer to why she wanted to stage this show, she said, “Kvetch is an extremely funny show, and I’ve always thought that Oxford could do with more hilarity and dramatic variation.” Despite the promised whoopee cushion use it is not a frivolous play. The blend of Jewish heritage-based humour, anxiety and sex seemed reminiscent of a Woody Allen script, often held up as an example of dark comedy. We asked Ellen if she thought KVETCH could be classed as black comedy, and why she thought this particular genre was appealing. While asserting that KVETCH was far from the macabre, she replied: “Issues of anxiety, discomfort, and lack of self-confidence are timeless and extremely common. Comedy provides a platform for problems that are otherwise considered difficult or awkward to talk about. Knowing that you are not alone in your suffering is often a relief, and being able to laugh with fellow sufferers often puts the issue into perspective and lightens your mood. All comedy does this, it is not a formula for entertainment related solely to ‘black comedy’.”
KVETCH looks to be light-hearted but not without substance. Ideally Ellen would like the audience to go away feeling cheerful and amused, which, after a play about fear, anxiety and frustration, would be an accomplishment: one it looks very much like she’ll achieve.
KVETCH is on at the Burton Taylor from 3rd of December to the 7th. Tickets are £5/6.