Rose

HOME presents the first UK revival of Martin Sherman’s award-winning Rose, which premiered at the National Theatre in London in 1999. Directed by Richard Beecham, Janet Suzman takes on the role of the eponymous Rose, recounting her fractured life from her home in Miami.

It’s a tough call for a single actor to engage an audience for two hours but Janet Suzman has the storytelling skills and emotional range to just about pull it off.  It’s a fascinating story of both the effects of war on children and what it is to be a refugee.  And it’s a deeply layered play that appears simpler on the surface than it really is; we have to look inside her words to determine which horrors she remembers, and which she has tried to forget.

The play splits into two very distinct sections.  The first half deals with displacement from the Ukraine, then persecution in Warsaw.  Sometimes only a single passing word or phrase gives away the true meaning of what is happening.  Sometimes she has created a new truth to hide an event she needs to forget to move on with her life.   How do our choice of memories affect our futures?  The second half deals with her life in the USA and her children returning to Israel.  She makes her new life but is always driven, and haunted, by the past.  When she sees Israel, is it the land she hoped for; when we fight wars do we ever end up with the place we wanted?  Where is the hope if we see history start to repeat itself?

Performed on a simple set built into the HOME stage, with walls transformed into shimmering horizons of light to match the tone of each passage, and supported by evocative music, this production has a minimalist feel.  And in fact this matches Rose’s memory; only fragments of detail remain.  It is not a complete story but an illusion, a collection of images and emotions.  As she herself says, is she remembering her own past, or a cinematic version, or a photograph?

A wonderful solo performance of a complex and relevant play that will make you think for a long time after the end.

photo by Simon Annand

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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