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gracebuckley
23rd May 2024

A celebration of Jewish art in Manchester: Introducing Synagogue Scratch

This month, Synagogue Scratch is returning to Manchester Jewish Museum. The series represents a unique opportunity to enjoy new, groundbreaking performances by Jewish artists, in the museum’s beautifully preserved 1874 Synagogue.
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A celebration of Jewish art in Manchester: Introducing Synagogue Scratch
Image: Courtesy of Manchester Jewish Museum

Words by Hannah Eldon

This May, the programme Synagogue Scratch returns to the Manchester Jewish Museum, presenting a series of work–in–progress performances by a diverse group of Jewish artists. This series is not to be missed, as audiences will have the opportunity to see these creative projects before they’re on the big stage. The performances take place in the magnificent Spanish and Portuguese synagogue, preserved with vibrant colour and elegant design, which is now celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The lineup of events ranges from plays to poetry, to musical performances and theatre, drawing from a range of genres and inspirations, tied together by their celebration of new Jewish art.

@mcrjewishmuseum

We’re so excited to see you all during our Open Day on Monday! 😍 The event is now fully booked but our new exhibits will stay on display for the upcoming months so do plan a visit another time. We’d love to see you! 🙋‍♂️ #manchesterjewishmuseum #150thanniversary #DiscoverAndCelebrate #150YearsofHistory #sephardi #sephardic #sephardishul #synagogue #1873 #timecapsule #sephardiccommunity #jewishmanchester #jewishhistory #jewishheritage #gradeiilisted #heritage #museumfromhome #museumtok #history #judaism

♬ Lo-fi hip hop (1004111) – nue

I attended one of the incredible performances on May 19th. The play, Lost Girl,  tastefully intertwines themes of womanhood, identity, and coming of age. We go through the tumultuous journey of Birdy, a 20-year-old ‘lost girl’ from Manchester, on the quest to explore her Jewish heritage with the hope of obtaining an EU passport.

Lost Girl was written and performed by Amy Lever, an exceptionally talented northern Jewish writer and actor, who thoughtfully illustrated her passion for creating work that centres on underrepresented stories. From the room echoing with bellows of laughter, to an ending bringing many to tears, Lever undoubtedly captivated the audience with an emotionally fuelled one-woman play.

There is a duality to the play’s title, as it explores a transformative modern story of a girl working to construct her identity through the frame of her family and friends, as well as the discovery of her ‘lost’ heritage, which is full of twists and turns, keeping everyone on the edge of their seat.

Credit: Amy Lever

Exploring a multilayered narrative, Birdy finds out her best friend ‘Bex’ obtains an EU passport in order to travel abroad, and gains inspiration to do the same. This becomes the starting point of a complex journey, as she realises finding out about her family heritage is not so straightforward…

“If the tooth fairy was real she’d be a feminist,” Birdy declared, as she announced several frustrations with navigating her experience of growing up. Her honest and relatable account is showcased through a rollercoaster of emotionally charged events, situating Birdy as a strong-willed young woman, who believes in her power to uncover her family secrets.

Including minimal props, powerful lighting techniques, and profound movements around the stage, Lever captured the various characters of Lost Girl masterfully, simultaneously playing Birdy, her friend Bex and several family members.

Lost Girl’s gripping monologues’ strong motif transports the audience on a journey of discovery and transition, as Birdy uncovers the true struggles behind her Grandad’s experience of growing up in Egypt. Through intensely emotional and heartfelt conversations, Birdy works to build the groundwork of her identity, eventually straying from her quest for her EU passport…

The Manchester Minyanaires – Credit: Manchester Jewish Museum

Synagogue Scratch continues on 26th May, with an evening of poetry and discussion with The Manchester Minyanaires, a collection of female poets coming together to explore their Jewish–Mancunian roots. Following this, Into The Melting Pot, staged by theatre company The Telling, is to be performed May 30. Set in 1492 Spain, Into The Melting Pot explores the journey of a Jewish woman forced to leave her country. The Museum adds, “Her story echoes down the ages to the personal stories of people affected by politics and war today.”

Tickets for performances in the Synagogue Scratch series can be purchased at a discounted rate for those under 30. Find them here!

Grace Buckley

Grace Buckley

Arts Editor

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