The Most Precious of Goods ★★★★★ — Jewish Renaissance

The warmth of her voice belies the horrors in the tale she tells. The cosy armchair in which she is seated, wrapped in a shawl, stands on a cheerfully colourful rug, though the monochrome backdrop and side curtains are sober, sinister, even before you realise the numbers on the curtains evoke the numbers tattooed on the arms of concentration camp inmates. The screen behind her shows a spider-like tangle of snow-laden tree roots.

In an inspired coupling, Spiro is joined onstage by cellist Gemma Rosefield. Much of her music evokes Yiddish folk traditions, although this would have gone over the head of the woodcutter’s wife, who daily visits a spot in the woodlands worked by her husband, where a goods train slows down at the same time each morning. A train packed with passengers, who often manage to thrust notes into her hands, although the illiterate and hungry woman hopes against hope for something she can eat or use to buy food. Until one day she gets rather more than she could expect: a quivering, grizzling bundle wrapped in a shawl that wriggles in her arms.

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