Friday, 27 March 2015


IF Ilan Goodman hadn't followed in his father Henry's footsteps and become and actor he says he would probably be "making science documentaries".
But science's loss is theatre's gain although Ilan admits he still has a hankering to turn his hand to the making such documentaries at some point in the future.
However, it seems acting was always very much in the blood for the 33-year-old from East Dulwich.
He was always in his school plays and despite a slight deviation to read for a psychology and philosophy degree, going to drama school afterwards sealed the deal.
He is currently making sparks fly in more ways than one in the play Bad Jews.
Written by Joshua Harmon, it has just opened at the Arts Theatre for a 10-week season after enjoying a sell out run at the St James' Theatre.
It features a family which comes together after the death of their beloved grandfather but who begin to bicker and quarrel when they find out a treasured family heirloom is up for grabs.
Each of the four characters believes they are the most deserving of it and within the confines of a cramped Manhattan apartment there follows a bitter but hilarious quarrel in which they argue over who should get the prize.
"It's an amazing piece of writing and fabulous to be in," says Ilan warmly. "Essentially it's a family feud and set the day after our grandfather's funeral.
"My character Liam has been away skiing with his non Jewish girlfriend and he doesn't get back in time for the funeral - which with Jewish people tends to happen quite soon after death.
"He arrives back at the flat and his brother and cousin are there and we all start fighting over a Chai necklace which belonged to the grandfather.
"The grandfather was a holocaust survivor and managed to keep hold of it the whole time he was in the concentration camp and then used it to propose to his wife so it's got a huge amount of religious and personal significance."
The feud that follows centres on Jewish heritage, religion and culture and although it concentrates on one particular religion Ilan says the themes are those which anyone can relate to.
"It looks at what duty we owe to heritage and our ancestor's history and where they may have had values that we may no longer share.
"It questions cultural and ideological change and how you respect your ancestors and relatives but be an individual and be true to your own values.
"Liam is Jewish but is a sceptical aethiest, doing a PhD in Japanese culture studies. He's a more liberal humanist. His cousin Daphna is much more religious and interested in Jewish heritage and culture and maintaining and cherishing the legacy and suffering of previous generations."
As a result of their differences all hell lets loose and they clash with devastatingly awful but hilarious results.
"They both behave appallingly but have very strong arguments," says Ilan. "They are very smart and insightful but are quite complex characters. At times they are both very reasonable and audiences will have some sympathy with them.
"However, they also annoy the heck out of each other and have done since they were small and there is a lot of comedy from the way they wind each other up.
"But it's the way they fight and drive each other to a kind of feral rage where they have these outrageous outbursts which is extraordinary.
"I think when the play really works it's when audiences veer between both both points of view because both characters have very compelling and emotive arguments. It's so cleverly written - I can see both sides."
Despite their bad behaviour - or perhaps because of it - Ilan says he's enjoying playing Liam.
"He's a great character," he says. "What attracted me to the role was the sheer delight of it - it's fast paced and I get the most enormous tirade - it's like an aria!
"Liam is provoked to the point of a complete outburst of appalling rage which I love. It builds like an aria until he says the most outrageous things where he almost shocks himself.
"It's moment to moment stuff and a lot of fun to do. I like parts like that, where they are tense and exciting."
Despite his obvious enthusiasm for the play and its popularity amongst audiences, it has not been without its controversy.
The name caused a certain amount of eyebrow raising. But the main issue was an advertising poster depicting an image of the play in which the four characters appear in the midst of a fight on the floor.
Complaints were raised with Transport for London which ran the posters on the tube network and they were subsequently taken down, something Ilan is disappointed about.
"This play and the poster are absolutely not anti semitic," he says. "That said if you see the poster I can see that people may question it but once they know the context it's clear what it's about.
"It does seem a bit crazy though because it was up on the tube network during the run at St James's Theatre but perhaps it's a sad reflection of the times.
"The recent events in France and the now large numbers of Jews leaving for Israel feeds into this climate of being sensitive. It's very sad."
Despite the absence of the poster, people have flocked to see the show and Ilan says he's "delighted" at the transfer to the Arts Theatre.
"I love doing contemporary plays like this one," he says. "I prefer the stage in general and I love the experience of telling a complete story in front of people, hearing their reactions and being in touch with their responses."
And he says he hopes to one day act alongside his father, Henry Goodman.
"We have talked about it and hopefully we will find the right project to do," he says. "It's tricky as he's in a senior place in his career and has won more awards than I can remember.
"He's exceptional so it has to be the right project and not something we are shoe-horned into.
"One day though, for sure."

Bad Jews is on at the Arts Theatre for a limited run until May 30. Tickets from £20. Visit or call the box office on 020 7836 8463.

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