Ambassadors Theatre, London
Written by Martin Sherman
Directed by Scott Le Crass
Maureen Lipman delivers a flawless performance in Martin Sherman’s fictional Rose, a play drawn from the experiences of his grandparents. Over two acts and two and a half hours, Lipman performs a monologue that charts the path of diaspora Jewry through the 20th century.
Set in 2000, the narrative sees Rose looking back upon her life. Born in a shtetl in the Ukraine in 1920, she was to experience Cossack pogroms and then the inhuman horror of the Holocaust that was to see her witness the shooting of her nine-year-old daughter by the SS in the Warsaw Ghetto. Escaping Europe and making her way on to the Exodus, bound for Palestine, Sherman is rightly unforgiving in his description of the harshness of the British rule over mandated Palestine and the accompanying hostilities shown by UK forces towards Jewish refugees.
The second act sees Rose build a life with the second of her three husbands, with Sherman offering up a description of the post-war American Jewish experience that will likely resonate with much of the play’s transatlantic audience. So far, so good, with the playwright having crafted a magnum opus in addressing the history that his writing has encompassed.
The wheels fall off in the monologue’s closing phase, as Rose equates Israel’s modern day actions in the West Bank with the Nazis' extermination of the Jews. This is a poorly argued conflation that offers a shallow and dangerous interpretation of a complex situation. It no doubt suits Sherman’s political agenda to promote this analysis, but as a historical comment his conclusion debases the preceding 90 minutes of brilliance.
Maureen Lipman’s performance of Rose is magnificent. Sherman’s writing however is ultimately found to fail to match her excellence.
Runs until 18th June