Jewish Book Week kicked off with a Purim Spiel put together by Rachel Mars, aptly titled “Sex, Lies and Regal Japes”. Actor, writer and all round comedy genius David Schneider introduced the evening and linked all the speakers using hilarious modern day parallels (Haman/Nick Griffin, Vashti/Jordan, Esther/Stacey Solomon from The X Factor!) with help from some beautifully evocative music from the Safar Ensemble and witty graphics by Miki Shaw. Kathy Lette was up first, riotously funny as feminist Vashti, complaining that men have not changed much since her husband asked her to dance naked in front of his drunken friends. Simon Schama’s sharp dressed Mordechai seemed to be channelling Don Corleone via Tevye as he phoned home all the news and gossip to his unimpressed mother, followed by Israelis Assaf Gavron and Udi Sharabani, drily droll as would be assassins Bigtan and Teresh. Sadly, David Aaronovich couldn’t be there, but host David Schneider stepped in to read his piece, giving Haman a vulpine seductiveness that almost persuaded one to believe his innocence, before changing accents to become a therapist in my own imagining of Haman’s wife Zeresh, who needed a bit of help with her anger management issues. Irving Finkel wrote a darkly comic radio play for three of Haman’s sons (played by Mark Fleischmann, Josh Cass and Matt Hopkinson), roped in (every pun intended) to building the gallows they themselves would soon be swinging from. Finally, Anita Diamant portrayed Purim’s heroine Esther after the ganze Megillah, having written a tell-all expose of her time at the Palace together with her eunuch and best friend Timmy.
Debbie Chazen is an actress whose latest roles have varied from one of the “Calendar Girls” in the West End, the mother of a Bat Mitzvah girl in “I am Ruthie Segal, Hear Me Roar!” (a short film by The Knish Collective) and Sissy the psychotic kidnapper in BBC 1’s “Doctors”.