Martin Sherman’s Rose premiered at the National Theatre in 1999, and was nominated for an Olivier for Best New Play. During the strange times of lockdown, Dame Maureen Lipman starred in an online version of the play which was available on Sky Arts. This one woman performance is now back in live theatre form, which makes the emotional connections to the piece even stronger.

Credit: Mark Senior

Lipman’s character Rose is sitting shiva on a wooden bench – although we aren’t privy to who she’s sitting shiva for, to begin with. Rose is an octogenarian Jewish woman, that’s survived the 20th century. From the holocaust to Palestine, the play follows the past century’s Jewish history.

Using a very simple set design of a bench and no staging changes throughout the show, Rose relies solely on Lipman’s performance. For one woman to be sat on a bench performing for over 2 hours and to hold your attention for the entire time is no mean feat. It’s a testament to Lipman’s greatness. This monologue is also much longer in duration than most, requiring Lipman to have great stamina. With a career spanning 7 decades, Lipman is an established expert of a performer, and Rose cements this.

Matin Sherman’s script contains witty lines which are expertly brought to life by Lipman’s excellent deadpan delivery directly to the audience. I did however, feel that the pacing began to seem slightly sluggish towards the end of the show – some minor editing would easily remedy this.

Credit: Mark Senior

I didn’t always enjoy the lighting, at times it felt slightly unnatural with its neon colours, considering Rose was supposed to be by the sea. The sound design by Julian Starr, was subtle but effective in adding soundscapes to transport the audience exactly where Rose was or was reminiscing of.

Lipman is expertly captivating throughout the performance, she brings a physicality to the role at times and is wonderfully funny, even taking a moment to stare puzzled at the audience who are raucously laughing at one of the lines. This is no frills storytelling at its finest, and for Lipman’s performance to remain excellent throughout the entire run time is astounding.

The core message of Rose is an urging of us not to forget the past. As we owe it to the people that lived through it, and we must learn from past mistakes. Everyone will be able to relate to something within this play, whether you’re Jewish or not.

Rating: 4 out of 5.


{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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