The Mighty Walzer at the Royal Exchange, preview: Ping pong & comedy

Daniel Jarvis

We preview Simon Bent’s witty adaptation of Howard Jacobson’s best-selling novel.

“Why it was that every Jewish boy growing up in Manchester in the 1950s played table tennis with some degree of competence I can’t explain…” The worlds of table tennis and Manchester’s Jewish community intertwine in an adaptation of Howard Jacobson’s The Mighty Walzer at the Royal Exchange, accompanied by an exhibition at Manchester Jewish Museum.

The Royal Exchange brings the sharp and witty world of Howard Jacobson to life; like a bookish, Jewish version of The Who’s pinball wizard Tommy, central character Oliver Walzer transforms his dysfunctional world with the discovery of ping-pong in this achingly funny coming-of-age story. Directed by Jonathan Humphreys and starring Elliot Levey as Oliver and Tracy-Ann Oberman as his overbearing mother, The Mighty Walzer promises a warmly nostalgic and hilarious night out.

Oliver Walzer is like a bookish, Jewish version of The Who’s pinball wizard Tommy

To accompany the production, Manchester Jewish Museum are running their own programme of events. Throughout July there will be guided walking tours running from Cheetham Hill’s Jewish Quarter through to the Royal Exchange. In addition to the tours there will also be an exhibition titled Chess in Shorts – Table Tennis and growing up in Jewish Manchester at the theatre, in collaboration with Howard Jacobson and Jewish Museum. Finally, the multi-award-winning Jacobson himself will be in conversation at the theatre on Monday 11 July.

Manchester’s Jewish community is one of the largest in the country: its roots lead back to the 18th century and Manchester’s rapid expansion. The community’s heritage is well represented in the Jewish Museum, which covers over 200 years of community history, and is housed in the city’s oldest surviving synagogue. As well as a vast collection of photos, documents and ephemera, the museum also boasts a huge oral history archive, keeping the stories and experiences of Manchester’s Jewish community alive.

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