6 June 2023
ROSE (Ambassadors Theatre) Review

This show ran at the Park Theatre last year, but I didn’t get a chace to see it then, so jumped at the opportunity to see its West End transfer.  It is a one-woman show in which the ever brilliant Maureen Lipman charts the story of Rose from growing up in a small village through surviving the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazis to building a life and family where the next generations have values that do not align to her own.

Rose tells her story whilst sitting shiva (the Jewish week-long period of mourning following a the death of a first-degree relative).  We don’t know who she sitting shiva for, and the play keeps us guessing till the very end.  Martin Sherman’s play, though mostly fictional, was inspired in part by his own grandmother’s story.  Scott Le Crass’ staging and direction are simple but effective:  Rose sits on her bench for the entire show because she is determined to do things right.

The play is a very complex and nuanced story, but Maureen Lipman pulls it off effortlessly.  The range of emotion she brings to the table is enviable.  I don’t want to say too much about the plot so not to spoil it, but it’s more than just a simple story of a Holocaust survivor.  We learn about Britain’s treatment of Jews after the war, what it’s like to fit into a community that doesn’t feel the need to accept you, and the human cost of the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Lipman sits there and talks to the audience, but it’s as if the audience is watching a movie that shows her story in full colour.  Although Rose is Jewish, it’s not just a story about Jews.  Instead, it’s about a woman whose values keep bumping up against those of others and what it means to be true to oneself.

One of the best lines from the show is, “If you have your first period and your first pogrom in the same month, you can safely assume [that] childhood is over”, and it is representative of the cheeky aura that settles over the show.  Rose is unique, and she will do things her way.  But she is also both an invitation and a provocation for us to contemplate where we stand on the issues she talks about.

Cheapskate enjoyment value: £10.

P.S.: I had no idea, but “Rose” was staged in 2000 on Broadway starring Olympia Dukakis.  Would’ve loved to have seen it…

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