RAGS at Hope Mill Theatre
Hope Mill does it again with another hit UK premiere. RAGS tells the story of Russian immigrant Rebecca and son David. Befriending Bella on the boat from Russia proves invaluable when Rebecca does not have the funds to enter New York. Joining her new family, she works hard to earn their place in American society. Resonating with issues in the world today this is a tale of determination and resilience in the face of xenophobic unrest in the New York of 1910. There may not be a physical anti-immigrant wall being built, but there is a clear societal barrier; the Jews are not welcome; they are low class immigrants; they are taking the jobs of US citizens.
First produced in 1986, this revised version strips back the original to concentrate on one key family unit; a more intimate approach, with new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, who was closely involved in the rehearsal process and attended the press night. The haunting opening as musicians saunter into the performance space playing violins, accordion and clarinet sets the scene for an atmospheric, emotional evening. The staging, costume and set capture the essence of the era; clever use of suitcases silhouetting the NY skyline. The impressive cast is led by Rebecca Trehearn (Rebecca), the mother trying to build a better future for her young son David (a strong performance from the talented Lochlan White). I particularly enjoyed Valda Aviks as Rachel – perfect comedic timing in song (Three Sunny Rooms) and word as she pursues her goal of attaining a husband.
From the aspirations of Brand New World to the candlelit beauty of Shabbos/Latin Mass RAGS delivers the riches we’ve come to expect from this innovative production house. Powerful; poignant; perfect.
Garry Thomas-Lowde for Canal St Online.
Hope Mill Theatre: March 2nd – April 6th 2019