The sharp comic genius of Howard Jacobson is brought to the stage in the world premiere of Simon Bent’s witty adaptation of best-selling novel The Mighty Walzer. This achingly funny coming-of-age story sees Oliver Walzer carry the dreams of his dysfunctional family on his shy and bookish shoulders, that is until he discovers ping-pong and with just one careful flick of the wrist the world is suddenly Oliver’s oyster.
Oliver Walzer is shy, bookish, Jewish. He doesn’t know how to talk to girls. But he can slice and flick a ping pong ball better than any teenager in Manchester. When Sheeny Waxman takes him under his wing on the Akiva Social Club Table Tennis team, Oliver channels his frustrated adolescent lust into the game he loves. That is until the heart-breaking Lorna Peachley and the prospect of a place at Cambridge take his eye off the ball.
Elliot Levey takes on the title role of Oliver Walzer and is joined on stage by Tracy-Ann Oberman as his matriarchal mother Sadie in this hilarious homage to the Manchester of Jacobson’s youth. Elliot Levey’s credits for the stage include Coriolanus (Donmar Warehouse), The Ruling Class (ATG) and Kafka’s Dick (Theatre Royal Bath). Film and television credits include The Lady in The Van (Nicholas Hytner) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (BBC). Tracy-Ann Oberman’s credits also include New Tricks (BBC) and McQueen (St James Theatre / Haymarket). The cast is completed by Daniel Abelson, Joe Coen, David Crellin, Ilan Goodman, Ann Marcuson, James Parris, Lily Sacofsky and Jonathan Tafler.
Howard Jacobson is a multi-award-winning writer and broadcaster who was born in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich and educated at Stand Grammar School, Whitefield. His books include The Mighty Walzer (1999) which won the inaugural Everyman Bollinger Wodehouse Prize for comic writing; Kalooki Nights (2006) and The Finkler Question (2010) winner of the Man Booker Prize. His most recent novel, J, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014.
The Might Walzer is directed by Jonathan Humphreys who was awarded the Regional Young Theatre Director bursary in 2010 to Sheffield Theatres where his work has received widespread critical acclaim and his production of Beckett’s Happy Days won a TMA award. Other recent work includes: Romeo and Juliet, Boeing Boeing, The Village Bike (Sheffield Theatres); Krapps’s Last Tape, Spoonface Steinberg (Hull Truck); Mojo Mickybo (Trafalgar Studios); Moscow Live (Hightide).
Alongside The Mighty Walzer there is also the opportunity to discover Jacobson’s Manchester as guides from Manchester Jewish Museum take you on a walking tour from the old Jewish Quarter of Cheetham Hill to the Royal Exchange Theatre. A free exhibition Chess in Shorts – Table Tennis and Growing Up In Jewish Manchester runs simultaneously with the show in the theatre’s education lounge and Howard Jacobson will be in conversation at the Exchange on Monday 11 July.
The Mighty Walzer runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre 30 June to 30 July 2016.
Royal Exchange Theatre – image credit University of Salford Press Office/flickr under creative commons licence.