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‘A complex play which will make you laugh & cry’: ROSE – Hope Mill Theatre (Online review)

When we meet Rose, she is sitting shiva for a nine-year-old girl, a girl shot in the forehead “in the middle of a thought”. Martin Sherman’s intense play is revived by Hope Mill Theatre with an absorbing performance from Maureen Lipman as the 80-year-old recounting the events of her life. A survivor, yes, but also a woman who faces up to whatever life throws at her with strength and occasional smiles.

I first saw Rose back in 2000, when the National Theatre production toured with Olympia Dukakis in the title role. I clearly remember liking it very much and coming out of the theatre deeply moved by the character of Rose and her memories.

While I knew it would tackle hard-hitting subjects like the Holocaust, and addressed them with direct honesty, I found that Rose also had moments where a viewer finds themselves laughing out loud.

This lady has no filter, suffers no fools, and addresses even the most catastrophic of circumstances with “on the other hand …” She’s a tough cookie on the outside and a wry observer of life.

Filmed in the empty auditorium, ghost seats standing expectant in the space, Scott Le Crass’ production keeps the monologue fresh with different camera angles and the use of music (by David Cullen) and video backdrops hold the attention.

Rose is a marvellous part for an older actress. It allows for a chatty performance, a frank engagement with issues around sex, fear, hatred, memory and expediency. The humour of the Jewish people comes to the fore, and their resilience.

“It’s the Jewish curse. We don’t have a heaven or hell, and we don’t come back. It’s now or never.” We hear of Rose’s childhood, and frustration at being blocked from a full education. We see her falling in love, having a child, living a full life. The horror of the ghetto and Nazi occupation is sharply felt and written with sensitivity.

The SS Exodus (“I remember the flag, or was that from the Paul Newman movie? How can I tell?) offers a new life, a new opportunity, and more. The eventual rebirth of Rose’s life together with the creation of the state of Israel.

Sherman’s Rose is a complex play which will make you laugh and cry. It is full of hope but also addresses the complex situation of the Jewish people worldwide, from Warsaw to Atlantic City. Lipman provides a tour de force performance which brings Rose’s life experience into sharp relief.

Rose is produced by Ginger Quiff Media and The Hope Mill Theatre in association with MPSI Ltd. It is available until 12 September and tickets are available for £8 here. Your link remains active for 24 hours.

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Rose.

Image credit: Channel Eighty

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