Review of ’12:37′: “The poison of faith”

Chelsea’s Finborough Theatre flies its stage around the world in this epic tale dealing with moral convictions and religion travelling from the foggy shores Ireland to the burning sands of Palestine. Guillermo Názara reviews this new play by Julia Pascal, to let us know what awaits under the spotlight of this story about passion, love and betrayal.

How many times have we ever wondered about the purpose of our actions? The real meaning of our duties, the significance of carrying out something because we are supposed to, but not because we believe in it – let alone want to. “Just do it because you have to do it”, says the most illogical phrase always presenting itself as the rotundest of arguments. Society’s values are based upon what’s morally accepted and what’s seen are rejectable. To some, a way to civilize – to others, a way to hold dominion over the masses’ minds. And for that goal, religion has been granted a few doctorates in the matter.

Love stories frustrated by inconsiderate parents are no news to fiction (neither are they to real life). What other people may say is more important than what you (or your loved ones) actually care for. Tradition is to be followed – that’s what we’ve been taught. And that’s what’s always been shown as this highest form of virtue, when in fact it’s the lowest level of decadence. How can we talk of integrity or generosity when we are denying happiness to others and even ourselves?

Chelsea’s Finborough Theatre’s stage might not be too big in size, but certainly has enough room to host a heavy bunch of big themes. Directed and written by Julia Pascal, 12:37 poses some interesting questions about the clash of convictions, ranging from the personal to the political. Set in 1930s Ireland (later jumping to England and eventually Palestine), the show primarily deals with the journey of Paul Green (played by Alex Cartuson), a man repressed by his mum’s thorough following of her Jewish faith. A frustrated relation with his beloved will finalise in the most extreme of outcomes: joining the Communist Party in Palestine.

Though establishing some interesting themes and, without any doubt, several enticing plot twists, the piece however fails to display a much effective structure, as some of the scenes seem unnecessary while others could enjoy further development, while it’s order doesn’t always look correct. Featuring several pleasant and most amusing live music transitions, the key of the problem (or solution) easily unrolls before your eyes and twinkles in your mind during the whole course of the performance: why couldn’t this be a musical? In a world where too many unasked adaptations infect the genre, there’s no better moment for those storylines whose nature is begging for a score to reclaim their place in the billboards. It has the topics, it has the obsession, it has the essence. Find a composer ASAP!

As for the cast, all of the troupe members give an acceptable rendition to their parts. Twice mentioned in this review, Alex Cartuson is probably the highest mention, exuding liability and determination in his portrayal of the role. On the other side, Eoin O’Dubhghaill, as Cecil, manages to make a memorable impression through his more sympathetic approach and, in summary, instictive comedy bone.

Indifference is the only reaction any playwright (or creative) should fear about their art. A work may be considered terrible, it may be hated, it may even despised and spit upon, but such a visceral response can just arise when very precise (and not that accesible) buttons are pressed. That’s not the case with 12:37, yet it’s not a play I can say I loved. But nonetheless, it’s surely triggered something within. With the right treatment (and it’s transition into the style it truly belongs to) that something could easily turn into more articulate words of appreciation.

All images credit to Yaron Lapid.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

12:37 plays at London’s Finborough Theatre until 21 December. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Názara

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