Essex comic’s Passover film

When the first wave of the Coronavirus hit back in 2020, and many theatres and creatives venues were forced to close, The Elysium Theatre Company based in Durham found a way to stay creative whilst providing entertainment. The theatre’s artistic director, Jake Murray, micro-commissioned five playwrights to create original monologues to reflect the time.

Each monologue had to be filmed in one take with a static camera in a way that enabled them to be rehearsed and filmed under lockdown conditions. There was no set theme or subject, and they were free to mention Covid-19 directly or to not mention it at all. They were rehearsed online via Zoom and filmed in person with a cameraman observing social distancing conditions. They were then edited and released on YouTube free of charge.

The first five, Volume 1, were released in October 2020 and were so successful that another collection of five were commissioned and Volume 2 was released the following year in April 2021. These too met with great success, to such an extent that Volume 3, will be released in June this year.

One of the writers commissioned for Volume 3 was Essex-born Jewish stand-up comedian, director and writer, Rachel Creeger. Her monologue Pass Me Over is due for release ahead of the June date to coincide with Passover.

In the piece, Miri, a Jewish woman is preparing the Passover Seder in 2021 for her family under lockdown conditions. She is a North London Jewish woman who has been brought up with strong traditions around her culture, but Rachel purposely leaves out her denomination and practice ambiguous.

Miri discovers through the piece that the implications of living with the pandemic for a year have affected her more than she had realised. Although written and performed within the framework of the Passover story as found in the Haggadah text that is read and enacted at the Seder, her experience is completely relatable to anyone who spent time separated from loved ones during the past couple of years, as well as those who found themselves living with them more closely than they had before!

For Rachel, as a modern-Orthodox Jewish woman living in North London herself, the character of Miri is one that is familiar to her in many ways

“In my life, I know a number of Miris, and I am her too. It’s an honour to bring an “everywoman” Jew to the mainstream public domain when so often the focus is on the Charedi community or those who leave the faith.”

Miri is played by actress Rachel Gaffin whose recent credits include Hapless, written and directed by Gary Sinyor and currently showing on Netflix, and Soldier Boy, selected for Seret 2022, the International Israeli Film Festival. She has also performed her own one-woman play, “I Will Tell…”, based on the diaries of children written during the Holocaust, all over the country before she was asked to adapt it for Radio 4.

Having previously worked with Rachel Creeger on a number of projects, she was ‘delighted’ to have the opportunity to work with her again on this.  

“Rachel’s writing is full of layers and the piece can be enjoyed on many levels, whether you’re Jewish, non-Jewish, secular, learned, involved, disinterested…. you name it! I am so excited to be bringing Miri to life in Pass Over Me.  She is every Jewish woman who ever prepared a seder, no matter her religious level or denomination, and her struggles while doing so during lockdown will resonate with everyone.”

Jake Murray is the award-winning artistic director of Elysium Theatre Company and has been responsible for commissioning and directing all of the monologues created. Given the religious content of the piece, Rachel Creeger worked alongside him as co-director, and was thrilled to be working with her on this ‘wonderfully rich piece.’

“Rachel has written a funny, moving, brilliantly original piece of writing which celebrates the fortitude of its main character, Miri, while also presenting the challenges she has had to face trying to keep herself and her family together. Anyone who had to navigate a household through Covid while trying to be a pillar of strength will relate to it. At the same time, the play is a wonderful celebration of Jewishness and Judaism. It shines a spotlight on Jewish practise which is loving and tender, and, in our anti-religious days, presents a warm, sympathetic and proud look at a way of life that is not often understood by the outside world. Everyone will love it, but it will probably strike a special chord in Jewish mothers up and down the country who have done their bit valiantly throughout the entire pandemic.”

Click here to watch Pass Me Over



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