Friday, 16 September 2022

REVIEW: Rose at Park Theatre 200

One of the most significant challenges for any actor is to carry a stage play single-handedly. No cast to support you, no props or special effects to divert the audience; just you, the script and a critical, expectant Joe Public. The actor effectively plays every character in the story; accent and demeanour continually adjusting; nuance and body language to build a mental picture. To hold the attention with confidence and sureness of touch is the trick. In the hands of Dame Maureen Lipman, it looks easy; therein we find the definition of talent - to make something extremely difficult look incredibly easy.

Rose tells the story of a strong Jewish woman born in 1920. With an air of contemporary poignancy, she was born in a Ukrainian village and began an epic journey around Nazi-occupied Europe. It is the worst of times as bombs and bullets rain down. Like many refugees, Rose eventually makes a new life for herself in America. The story in between is a bumpy and chastening ride but no less compelling, as one woman's life becomes a classic 20th Century experience. We start on the eve of the new Millennium as Rose, now a worldly 80 years old recounts a chequered and eventful life.

Martin Sherman has devised a panoramic script that captures exactly what it means to be Jewish in an ever-changing world. Key factual events are signposted as the narrative gently unfolds. We learn of her early life and stormy relationships as Europe falls headlong into the Second World War. Her post-war exploits are the stuff of legend as the land of opportunity beckons. Rose documents her adventures selling deckchairs in Atlantic City and running a hotel on Miami Beach. At the centre of the piece is Maureen Lipman who delivers a faultless performance in the title role. Like all good actors, her timing is perfect as she rolls from comedy into drama and back again without blinking.

The plot deals with universal themes that remain current today as race, politics and gender equality all jostle for prominence in a thoughtful and searching narrative. The effects of growing old in a society increasingly obsessed with youth are painfully well observed. Subtle humour underpins the script but never feels forced with a manufactured punchline. Funny lines naturally flow from the character's interaction with others. Maureen Lipman has added more gold stars to an already glittering CV. From her breakthrough in the Evacuees written by her late husband Jack Rosenthal to her latest starring role in Coronation Street, she remains one of our best performers on stage and screen.

Review by Brian Penn

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Circle B29 | Price of Ticket: £29.50

Blog Design by pipdig