Above – Evelyn Krape & Amy Hack. Photo Jeff Busby

Malthouse Theatre continues their impressive program of works in season 2024. After debuting in 2022 to high praise, Malthouse Theatre in collaboration with Kadimah Yiddish Theatre brings Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story Yentl to the stage. It’s the first time the story has been adapted since Barbara Streisand’s iconic musical film in 1983 (prior to that it was adapted for Broadway in 1975).

Set in 1870s Poland, Yentl is a story that traverses time and space. It is a journey of a young woman with a thirst for knowledge, and of a society that is desperate to quash that desire. Singer’s 1965 story takes on the subject of gender roles, religion, politics and traditional Yiddish culture in a story that is as much a modern tale as a historic one.

Captured beautifully by Amy Hack as Yentl/Anshl, Hack plays the character with curiosity, exposing the double standards in society and going undercover to live her life fully. Joined by Nicholas Jaquinot as the student Avigdor, he epitomises everything Yentl is trying to convey with her disguise. Jaquinot performs the role with tenderness and lively humour, making his unlikeable elements appear all-too human.

Yentl is an unusual production, performed in both English and Yiddish with (English surtitles), the inclusion of traditional language brings an authentic and otherworldly element to the stage. The addition of the character yeytser ho’re, not seen in Singer’s original is welcome. Played by Kadimah Yiddish Theatre’s Artistic Director, Evelyn Krape, explains the more complex elements of the story to those of us unfamiliar.

The set and costume designs by Dann Barber add to the mystical atmosphere, as does the lighting design by Rachel Burke, filling the Malthouse stage with dreamlike qualities of a forgotten world. Directed by Gary Abrahams who also co-wrote the adaptation with Elise Esther Hearst and Galit Klas, Yentl borrows elements of gender-swapping, mistaken identity and queer romance from Shakespeare, but is a feminist tale all of its own. Unlike anything you’ve seen before, Yentl is a welcome change of pace to the theatre.

Event details

Kadimah Yiddish Theatre presents
by Gary Abrahams, Elise Esther Hearst and Klas

Director Gary Abrahams

Venue: Malthouse Merlyn Theatre | 113 Sturt Street Southbank VIC
Dates: 29 February – 17 March 2024
Tickets: $76 – $20
Bookings: (03) 9685 5111 | https://www.malthousetheatre.com.au

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