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Uri Agnon - Antisemitism: a (((musical))) Interview

Antisemitism: a (((musical))), an outrageous new musical coming to Camden People’s Theatre this autumn, following an Israeli Jew’s first 24 hours on British soil. From bickering aunts to some inept kidnappers, our unwitting hero sets off on a wild, hilarious and hostile journey. Composer and writer Uri Agnon’s UK theatre debut will sing and dance its way through one of the most explosive topics in British politics today.

A fast-moving political satire, Antisemitism: a (((musical))) blends Jewish humour and genre- bending music to tackle centuries-old hatred towards the Jewish community in a no-holds- barred yet nuanced production from the perspective of the eternal outsider/insider: the wandering Jew.

Ahead of the run we caught up with Uri Agnon to discuss the show.

What inspired you to write Antisemitism: a (((musical)))?
I moved to the UK in 2019 and there were a lot of conversations about antisemitism happening around then. I had just come from a place where my Jewish identity was not marginal in any way - quite the opposite in fact - and I had to suddenly figure out how I felt about being Jewish and about the very political, and often simplistic, discourse about antisemitism. That seemed like an interesting place to write a piece from. It was a way to work through my thoughts, and the research for it involved speaking to a lot of other Jews, and reading lots.

The first thing that drew me, oddly, was the idea of setting online antisemitic abuse to music, having a choir sing it, and force myself, as well as performers and audiences, to actually look at the words, to take it apart, understand it, and also see how wild it actually is. I did end up composing a lot of this stuff, and there is a Greek chorus of sorts singing tweets throughout the show.

Artwork by Lily Ash Sakula 

What made you feel this story was important for now?
In a horrifying turn of events some of the topics in the show feel less fictional now than they were when I wrote them. The escalation of violence in and around Gaza finds echoes within this show which explores power relations, hate, violence, touches on the politics of Israel/Palestine, and has kidnapping scene as a key moment. This has made working on the show very emotional, but it also feels more important than ever to challenge bigotry and racism.

Working on this for four years, I kept hoping for the show to feel less relevant. It never did. Antisemitism has been a constant feature of societies for hundreds of years, with some eras being worse than others. You can see it online, and offline, in politics and in the art world, in the UK and beyond. The show challenges the scary kind of out-right “Jews control the world” positions, but it also looks at better hidden forms that will not make someone show sympathy to Nazism, but might make them write a show with an evil rich Jew as the villain. While antisemitism is at the centre of the show it deals with lots of other questions to do with power, privilege, identity and otherness.

How did you approach the writing and development process?
I knew from the beginning that it had to be funny. I don’t want to watch a dry show that explains methodically all the wrongs of antisemitism, let alone write one. So the show is quite quick, and often uses irony to shed new light on things we think we already know. You can get away with much more through humour, and laughing is also a coping mechanism and a form of healing. It also couldn’t be realistic. 

I wanted to push things beyond the borders of reality, because so much relating to antisemitism, and the fears around it, is tied into fantasy, conspiracy, trauma -  realism just would not be able to expose it all. I wrote a version of the piece quite quickly, but have rewritten it many times until I found the right balance of so many different ideas, perspectives and feelings.

How did you go about writing the music especially with such an important topic?
The show takes inspiration from the work of many Jewish composers, people you’d expect from the world of musical theatre such as Weil, Bart and Sondheim, but also Arnold Schoenberg, György Ligeti, and Mark Ronson (the list goes on quite a bit). The show combines these drastically different musical languages to create something that is (I hope) both catchy and unpredictable.

One of the interesting challenges was composing the online hate-speech texts. I love composing non-artistic texts, finding surprising musicality in words that were not meant to be sung. But with the tweets another challenge presents itself: making the music engaging but not beautiful; expressive but not aesthetic.

How much of yourself is in the story?
The show is not autobiographical, nor is it realistic, but it has been informed by my own experience moving to the UK from Jerusalem. The show takes real events, feelings and thoughts and extrapolates them, pushing them to absurdity.

Uri Agnon

What keeps you inspired as an artist?
I am interested in creating art that engages with our current moment in all its complexities, and that is also the kind of art that I seek as an audience member. The question of how art can (and if it can) have a meaningful impact on questions of justice and injustice in our society are constantly on my mind, and are at the centre of this show.

What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing Antisemitism: a (((musical)))?
I hope people go away from the show with a deep and expansive sense of solidarity, and a willingness to think critically, having had a meaningful and enjoyable evening in these difficult times. At this moment in time I also feel it’s highly important that people see that the claim that they have to choose between solidarity with Jews and solidarity with Palestinians is false. No one is safe until we are all safe, no one is free until we are all free.

Antisemitism: a (((musical))) plays at Camden People’s Theatre from Tuesday 17th until Saturday 28th October 2023. Tickets are available from

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