Theatre Review - Rose

DAME Maureen Lipman gives a pitch-perfect performance as Rose, a Jewish woman born in a Ukrainian village who survives the Holocaust and becomes a successful entrepreneur in America.

On the eve of the new millennium, Rose is 80. She sits on a bench in Miami Beach, sipping a glass of water. “I’m sitting shivah.” she tells us. “You sit shivah for the dead.”

Rose is mourning the loss of a nine-year-old girl who has been shot in the head. Delving into her memories, she takes us through the major events of her life, effectively describing what it meant to be a European Jew in the 20th century. Twice-widowed, Rose sits shiva several times, before returning to this particular moment.

As an adolescent Rose survives a pogrom before following her brother to Warsaw. There she meets and marries her beloved Yussel, a one-eyed painter. During the Second World War, they are trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto together with their young child; only Rose escapes.

After the war she is shunted between camps for displaced people and is wooed by Sonny, an accident-prone, American sailor on board the Exodus 1947, a ship used by an underground Jewish organisation to transport their people to Palestine.

After the British forcibly deny them entry, they are returned to Europe.

Sonny rescues Rose from internment in another camp and they settle in America, where Rose runs a hotel and later a retirement home. Meanwhile, their son moves to Israel with his family. He distances himself from Rose. “Your shadows will choke us to death,” he claims.

Martin Sherman packs a lot into this poignant play and the depth of his characterisation is impressive. But over two hours for a monologue, even with a break and an actress as accomplished as Lipman, feels overlong. Scott Le Crass’s static staging gives Sherman’s words space but challenges the audience’s attention span. It’s a shame because while Lipman’s execution is flawless, the play’s shocking denouement is muted.  

Until October 15

Originally published by the Islington Tribune