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How do you take one of the most well- known Jewish traditions and make it relevant and contemporary? How do you create an event that audiences can relate to and want to attend? Those were the challenges facing the JCC when thinking about the Jewish holiday of Purim. Purim is a celebratory holiday with a carnival like atmosphere. It is filled with stories and is marked with parties, drinking and festivities. In 2012 the holiday fell on the same date as International Women’s Day – giving us the perfect opportunity to recognise the importance of the voices of the women in the tale.
Four women writers of different backgrounds and ages were commissioned to explore and re-imagine the story through the eyes of the women who were part of it.
Irma Kurtz, Eleanor Greene, Tania Hershman and Rachel Rose Reid each gave their own particular and unique perspective.Working with the theatre company Paper Scissors Stone a bar in the East End of London was transformed into a black market where these stories were bought and sold. Tents and tale tellers filled the space and each audience member took a different journey and discovered a new take on the traditional Purim tale.
At the heart of Subtext was the ongoing desire to create something that captured the essence of the JCC brand – a series of annual events that looked at being Jewish in a new way by holding up a twenty-first century lens to the traditions and rituals.
It is hoped that Subtext will be repeated and will become a key date in the organisation’s calendar of events – drawing in crowds of all ages and backgrounds every year. “Subtext brought the magic of Purim to a 21st century audience. The evening weaved together new narratives created by women and brought them together in a unique, pop-up theatre setting. This was enhanced by interactive story-telling, live music and a relaxed, bar-based location.”
Atira Winchester, Programme Manager, JCC for London
Photographs © Nigel Bewley