Joan Davies finds this exceptional one-woman show a touching representation of us all
Rose is an 80-year-old Jewish lady ‘sitting shiva’, a seven-day period of mourning, alone. “I’m 80 years old. I find that unforgiveable and suddenly it’s a millennium and I stink of the past century, but what can I do?”
Martin Sherman’s Rose, first performed in 1999, tours us through twentieth century western war and dislocation. HOME’s production, the first revival, is timely: Rose’s wail against the killing of little girls timeless.
Rose’s story began in the shtetls of Ukraine, near to Chernobyl. The events of the twentieth century propel her wanderings, through pogroms, persecution, war and frequent new beginnings via Warsaw, the Middle East and the United States. Later she chooses tovisit to her son, American-born but settling in Israel.
Through Rose we revisit much of the western world’s twentieth century history and reflect on its wider current impact, both political and personal. Rose’s story combines joy and terror; a gentle stoicism and an unrelenting determination infuse the telling.
Writer Martin Sherman has written a history lesson informed by Jewish experience peppered with humour - the humour is recurring and essential. Rose on God: “But God is like a policeman. He’s never there when you want him and then, of course, he arrests you when you’re innocent.” Rose on covering up the taste of medicine: “I know, I’m eating ice-cream to take a pill for cholesterol. I’ll tell you something - who cares?”
This production is outstanding, a one-woman show which succeeds as a team-work production.
Dame Janet Suzman began her acting career at Manchester’s Library Theatre, now transformed into HOME. On this return, she holds the stage for two hours in a performance of exceptional clarity, emotions given space yet kept under a level of control that allows the narrative to thrive. As a result, the audience travels through history, across continents, and further into an understanding of human frailty and human strength.
Rose is Rose: Rose is all of us, and by any other name.
This powerful performance results from an engaging and challenging level of playwriting you would expect from Martin Sherman, writer of ‘Bent’.
Rose speaks from one bench, one among a stage filled with ranks of identical though unoccupied benches. Occasionally rising from her bench, she speaks for many, perhaps for the survivors, or possibly for the lives of those millions who didn’t survive.
Simple but dramatic lighting changes underpin the paths of time and mood. Designer Simone Kenny, lighting designer Chris Davey and sound designer Adriennne Quartly use HOME’s space and technical scope to accentuate ‘one among many’ interpretations. The whole team enhance the story telling, under the direction of Richard Beecham, while allowing the audience room for interpretation.
Janet Suzman’sperformance as Rose is outstanding. The production is a triumph for teamwork and a must-see for Manchester’s theatregoers.
Rose runs at HOME runs until Saturday 10 June