Tuesday, September 26

Rose – Hope Mill Theatre

Rose is sitting shiva, participating in the Jewish tradition of mourning someone who has died and sharing stories about their life. And this particular death turns out to be tangled up with her story in a way that is really quite unexpected. As she sits, she shares snapshots from her own life that sometimes seem a little disconnected, as she wanders through the images in her memory, trying to separate the things that actually happened to her from the movies she has seen over the years and the stories she has been told; recognising that there are some things that she just doesn’t want to remember.

Rose begins by talking about growing up in a Jewish village in Ukraine, her relationship with her parents and siblings, and the civil war and its consequences. She talks about following her brother to Warsaw and meeting the love of her life, and then weaves the thread of love and loss through the war to Atlantic City and then to Miami. This is Rose’s story, but it’s also the story of many, and Rose is candid in her telling of that story, with all its ups and downs.

Maureen Lipman brings Martin Sherman’s Rose to life in the empty Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester. Despite the lack of an audience to feed the emotion and tension in the room, Lipman paints pictures with her words and expressions that evoke joy and pain and laughter even through the computer screen. Lipman’s performance is understated and intimate in its simplicity, and I found it difficult to look away. I was absolutely captivated by the undercurrent of strength in her persona and the hint of the pain that she has overcome in her eyes, mixed in with a perfect dose of humour. This story, the story of a Jewish woman who spends her whole life escaping from something and fighting for something – though she herself admits that it’s not always clear exactly what she was looking for – is sadly still very relevant today, and I found myself moved and challenged by many of Rose’s reflections on faith, love, nostalgia and what it means to be a survivor.

This is not a feel-good piece to provide the escapism we all need from time to time, but it is an important piece of theatre that tells a story we all need to hear, and this revival has been extremely well put together. The music and video footage woven into the background only add to the production, sensitively directed by Scott Le Crass.

You have only got a couple of days to catch it, and you have to buy your tickets before 10 am to receive a link to watch that remains valid for 24 hours. Tickets cost £8 plus fees, and they are available until Saturday 12th September from https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/rose  This online streaming event is also supporting Age Concern, The Fed & UK Jewish Film.

With this production of Rose, the Hope Mill Theatre is continuing to provide quality theatre to its audiences despite not yet being able to open their doors in person; and the creative team remains true to its vision to champion lesser-known and new works alongside timeless classics.

Reviewer: Jo Tillotson

Reviewed: 9th September 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★