Posted by: jbwuk | February 25, 2010

Spoken Word

Spoken Word is sweeping the nation. Literary events have turned in a new direction –smaller, hipper and in new and interesting venues. There’s Bookslam, the Book Club Boutique, Litro Live and oodles more, shaking the literary event out of the realm pf the armchair and sedate conversation and in to a whole range of new forms which take the most eclectic of guises; storytelling, performance poetry, comedy, puppeteering, musical pastiche, interactive live art and a whole lot more which can’t even be confined to a category.

The Spoken Word event has been a growing element of Jewish Book Week this past few years. We started with a small and eclectic ‘Bookniks’ evening which grew into last year’s glorious, Saturday-night, sold out Yiddish Cabaret -my personal favourite evening of the last five years’ JBW’s.

At this year’s festival Spoken Word has sprouted into three exciting events; the Purim Spiel, True Tales? and Time Travelling in Polish Literature.

 Our opening night takes the Purim Spiel to a whole new realm. We have Simon Schama as Mordechai on the phone to his anxious mother, Kathy Lette, resplendent as the blighted Vashti, Anita Diamant in a tiara as Esther, Debbie Chazen as the widowed Zeresh who just ‘can’t help loving that (Ha)man of mine’, David Aaronovitch’s Haman as a hack with an anti-Semitic chip on his shoulder, Assaf Gavron and Udi Sharabani as Bigtan and Teresh, who bear more than a passing resemblance to Israeli security guards and the fabulous Irving Finkel’s take on Haman’s sons.

David Shneider is our modern-day Sheherezade unravelling the twisted tale of the Persian kingdom going where no religious scholar or historian has gone before. Trust me.

All that and live Persian music.

‘True Tales?’ started as a Lit Café with the JCC that went so well we decided to bring it to the festival. The idea is that we pick a theme, in this case it’s ‘Imprints of Home and Exile’ and commission some of our favourites to tell a 10 minute story on that theme. The audience then get to choose where the story lies on the slippery line between truth and fiction. The lovely Lana Citron will be hosting and our chosen tellers for the evening are; Indian Jewish novelist and short story writer Esther David, comedy writer and novelist Jon Canter, writer, broadcaster and agony-aunt Irma Kurtz, Jewish Pirate historian, Ed Kritzler and novelist and spoken word suprema, Rachel Holmes.

And because wine and tall tales go so well together, the audience will get a free glass of wine, courtesy of Tishbi Wine.

On the closing night of the festival we present a glimpse of the fascinating and shifting world of Jewish Poland, framed by its literature. Actors Henry Goodman and Beverley Klein will be reading a selection of texts and accompanied by musical arrangements from Lemez Lovaz (founder of Oi Va Voi and the Yiddish Twist Orchestra).

All three events are inspired by the innovations of the Spoken Word scene and hopefully giving something back too, enlarging the definitions and contorting the forms to create three evenings which should prove by turns, funny, moving and altogether engaging.



  1. Purim and Babylon! Liberation, avoiding of disaster! Megillot! In Iran-Iraq was also traditions of prophet Habakkuk very important- do You know that Qumran people re-tells that Habakkuk was doing ABACUS mathematics in Habakkuk Commentary!! Reading of this in Qumran people and Babylonian traditions…and liberation…

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