THE Melting Pot had not been seen before now on a British stage in almost 80 years. So it's somewhat curious that Max Elton's production opens with an introductory letter to then US president Theodore Roosevelt from its author Israel Zangwill thanking him for praising his work.
It's easy to see why Roosevelt liked it. At points, Zangwill's 1908 play projects an almost propaganda-like view of the US as “God’s crucible in which all the races can combine” — thus its protagonist and tormented composer David Quixano (Steffan Cennydd).
What's curious about Elton's decision is that, along with a series of additional segments of narration, it adds nothing to what is already a rather transparent play. Typical of the period, Zangwill leaves little to the imagination as he details the Romeo and Juliet-like tale of two young Russian immigrants recently arrived in New York.
Drawn together by a love of music, they are estranged by faith and history. David, his uncle Mendel (Peter Marinker) and grandmother are “sea-tossed wanderers” who have fled the brutal Kishinev pogroms, while Vera (Whoopie van Raam) has deserted her revolutionary youth, having been expelled to Siberia.
She is instantly drawn to the virtuoso violinist who has come to teach at the settlement house for refugees in which she works until she discovers that “the wonderful boy is a Jew.” Yet rampant anti-semitism cannot stop David's talents from reaching an audience, nor prevent their passions from bubbling over. But the demons of their pasts take much, wildly melodramatic, overcoming.
The eight-strong cast give it their best shot, with Alexander Gatehouse and Hayward B Morse in particular both producing very shrewd turns.
But they cannot overcome the play's antiquated nature. As a historical document, The Melting Pot provides a very necessary reminder of the rich US history of immigration and the prejudice that accompanied it.
Yet, as a drama, it couldn't be much more formulaic.
The Melting Pot runs until December 19, box office: finboroughtheatre.co.uk
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.