Coming up this week is a brand new production of Martin Sherman’s Rose at the Hope Mill Theatre. As the theatre is currently still closed, this is an online only run, and is limited to the 10th, 11th, and 12th of September. Tickets are only £8 and give access to the stream for 24hrs.
Written by Martin Sherman and first staged in London in 1999, Rose is a one-woman play that sees the central character reminisce about her life and experiences living through Russian progroms in the Ukraine as a young girl, and surviving the holocaust as a young adult. In this production, Maureen Lipman takes on the titular role, sitting on a wooden bench in a darkened, empty auditorium.
Rose starts out by explaining she is sitting shiva, without revealing who for, and then gently starts out revealing the truth of her life. Born in a small Shtetl in the Ukraine in the 1920s, and living through the holocaust in Russia, she is witness many horrors before eventually settling in America; but her spirit seems alive and kicking. With humour as well as regret and doubt, Lipman leads us through the difficult decisions and harrowing experiences of Rose, aided by projected faint visuals as in a dreamscape.
The occasional view of the empty seats in her line of sight double down on the air of loneliness and division 80 year old Rose touches on, the feeling of alienation and having lost touch with modern society. Having seen many tragedies and having made life-changing decisions on a whim, she cannot understand her own children and grandchildren at times, though she does try. Touching on social and political subjects, religious musings and personal dilemma, Rose is a piece that questions the relevance of history to contemporary youth while elevating it and putting a spotlight on the reality of what past generations have had to go through to achieve the world we live in today.
There is levity in Rose’s acceptance of her own mistakes, her shortcomings as well as strength. It truly does feel like a review of a life lived on other people’s opinions and desires. Rose finds her feet and builds a successful life for herself, though not always a happy one. She moulds herself to fit the circumstances she has been presented with, and presents her lived wisdom with wit and strength. There is strength in emotionality, in admitting when the truth is just too much to acknowledge, when a personal decision is shared with no one but oneself.
This production is very well presented and spans a variety of emotions, balancing the dark with the light and painting a picture that feels so real, it is easy to forget Rose is a play and not a personal story of a lifetime. Lipman embodies the character with competence and empathy, shrouding her in the forgetfulness and mental frailty that comes with age and too much history in one heart.
A beautiful story told in a wondeful production, Rose is an emotional experience. You can see this production until the 12th of September, so get your ticket now, make a nice hot cup of tea and settle in for an unforgetful tale. Four and a half out of six rainbow sloths from me!