Paul T Davies reviews Maureen Lipman in Rose by Martin Sherman streaming online for a limited season from Hope Mill Theatre.
Hope Mill Theatre Limited streaming 10th-12th September (Now extended to 26 September).
“She laughed. And then she blew her nose. She had a cold. The bullet struck her forehead. It caught her in the middle of a thought. She was nine. I’m sitting shivah. You say shivah for the dead.”
It’s a bold, attention-grabbing opening to Martin Sherman’s powerful one-woman monologue Rose. His portrait of a strong Jewish woman, who recounts her life from war-devastated Europe to achieving the American Dream, is a tour-de-force for an actress, demanding, and a full- length play, no seventy-minute interval free here. And in Maureen Lipman, filmed on the stage of the Hope Mill Theatre, the script has a perfect interpreter, holding us close in Rose’s story, almost daring us to look away in the darkest moment, embracing us seconds later, with wonderful self-deprecating humour. There is a subtlety to the performance, the production, (gentle sound effects and music, with some projections), gently directed by Scott Le Crass, avoids melodrama and is all the more mesmerising for it.
If the play sounds heavy, Sherman invests Rose with contradictions, irony, paradoxes, insights, memories and forgetfulness, and the phrase “on the other hand” allows her and us to look at faith and situations from more than one angle. Lipman’s skill in front of the camera creates a confidential, almost relaxed atmosphere, and the intimacy is beautifully created and maintained. Rose’s journey is epic, from her birth in a village that would now be located close to Chernobyl, surviving the Warsaw Ghetto, a ship called The Exodus, America’s McCarthyism, Atlantic City and Miami Beach. However, it never feels that she leaves our sphere, her contact is close and confidential. The humour in the tale is pinpoint, Sherman gives her fantastic jokes, that make you care all the more as she mourns the loss of a way of life and the loss of life, Lipman flipping us expertly between laughter and tears, and Rose, although she has strong opinions, never preaches. In the closing minutes, the circumstances of those opening sentences are revealed in their full, devastating, consequences.
It’s a limited streaming, with the tickets being £8 and proceeds being shared between Age UK, The Fed and UK Jewish Film. It’s worth you finding the time to catch it, Rose’s story resonates because it is still, sadly, relevant.
Note: Rose will now be streamed through 26 September by popular demand. Watch it here!