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Review: Whitechapel Dreams with Bernard Kops and Warren Mitchell

PUBLISHED: 16:24 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:29 05 October 2010

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Olivia Harris, oliviaharris@mac.com 07881 810 878

THE WORLD-RENOWNED Whitechapel Gallery is fast becoming a venue for arts entertainment. The gallery reopened last year after extensive building work which saw the neighbouring empty Whitechapel Library incorporated into the gallery. So it was fitting the

THE WORLD-RENOWNED Whitechapel Gallery is fast becoming a venue for arts entertainment. The gallery reopened last year after extensive building work which saw the neighbouring empty Whitechapel Library incorporated into the gallery.

So it was fitting the Stepney Green born playwright Bernard Kops brought his radio play Whitechapel Dreams to the venue as it is set in the basement of the old library, the day before it closed in 2005 to be replaced by the Whitechapel Idea Store.

The library had served as Kops' own university, after he left school at 13 during the war and never went back, and he has even written a poem Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East about it.

Incidentally after the performance Kops told the audience he thought the Idea Store was "terrible", with a "peripatetic librarian".

In Whitechapel Dreams, a play originally broadcast on BBC Radio4 and directed by David Hunter, birthday boy Warren Mitchell played Leo, a librarian retiring with the library and a send-off gift of a bicycle.

Down in the library's basement he packs up books when one of his young protégées, a Muslim girl (Ruth D'Silva) who devoured the literature on offer, took refuge after a family row and begged to spend the night there.

Her imagination conjures up the spirit of world war one poet and artist Isaac Rosenberg (Gunnar Cauthery), who exhibited his work at the gallery.

But her misery spills over despite sharing Rosenberg's 1917 poem Returning, We Hear the Larks.

If we are expecting a furious father, hell-bent on punishing his wayward daughter we are mistaken.

Dad (Rez Kabir) finds common ground with Leo, two fathers struggling to understand their daughters in a changing world.

It was a treat to see Kops performing very close to his old 'university' and sharing his lyrical homage to days and people gone by which have influenced the culture of the Whitechapel of today.


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