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Yentl returns to Melbourne at Malthouse

Yentl returns to Melbourne at Malthouse

Yentl’s highly anticipated return to Melbourne for a second season hints at a sensational run, playing from February 29 to March 17 at Malthouse Theatre in collaboration with Kadimah Yiddish Theatre. 

Based on the iconic short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, which gained widespread recognition through Barbra Streisand’s 1983 musical film, this original theatre adaptation explores “gender, identity and love” and pays homage to traditional Yiddish culture.

“When Kadimah Yiddish Theatre approached me about working on this project, I read the original short story and was just so shocked and astounded at how different the short story is from the film, and really how much deeper and darker and more complex and more nuanced it is,” director and co-writer, Gary Abrahams said.

Yentl tells the story of a young woman with a “burning desire” to study religious scripture, challenging the societal and cultural barriers of her time that forbid women from studying.

When her father dies, Yentl emancipates herself and dresses in male guise to pursue her studies, but must confront the collision of religion, gender, and sexual politics with her Yiddish culture.

“It’s the story of a young woman’s fight for recognition, for freedom, for equality,” Mr Abrahams told Southbank News.

“It’s a very feminist story, but there’s also a really interesting sort of non-binary and trans argument at the heart of the story because Yentl feels she’s got the body of a woman but the soul of a man, so she kind of moves forward trying to reconcile those two sides of her.”

 

 

Featuring a talented ensemble of just four actors, Mr Abrahams describes the show as “highly theatrical”, exploring “big issues in a very funny, Shakespearean kind of way”.

“The whole thing comes alive like a pop-up storybook, like a fable,” he said.

“There’s a certain sort of Tim Burton-esque quality to the way we’re telling the story which reveals the sort of fable and the morals and the lessons at the heart of the story.”

While it’s “rare in Australia with original works that you get more than one season”, the return season of Yentl is a truly unique addition to Malthouse Theatre’s 2024 program.

“The Malthouse Theatre is one of my favorite theatres in Melbourne, I love this venue - it’s such a pleasure and a privilege to be here and be showcased here,” Mr Abrahams said.

“If the audience think they know the story, then this will kind of upend any notions they have – it’s a very modern piece of theatre and it’s very entertaining.” •

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