Rose – Park Theatre, London

Screenwriter: Martin Sherman

Director: Scott Le Crass

Undoubtedly one of the greatest feats of memory you will see, that of Martin Sherman Pink nonetheless, it’s a one-piece steamroller that will leave you feeling a little dizzy. Lasting nearly three hours including an intermission and performed by a single actor, it retraces nearly eight decades of Jewish history in the 20th century from Rose’s early years in Ukraine, through the Warsaw ghetto, the promise of Palestine and a comfortable but soulless life in Atlantic City. A plethora of stories, memories and reflections that sometimes struggle to maintain a dramatic momentum.

Rose, 80, sits on a bench by the sea in the United States, determined not to remember, except that she does and the stories of her life are released to the public, also taking into account the great events of the century in its last year. like three marriages, children and a trail of lost dreams. But losing her belief in God along the way makes it harder for Rose to find meaning in her life as a shifting Jewish identity causes deep rifts in modern times.

Written in 1999 and created at the National Theater, this revival of Pink with Maureen Lipman in the lead role started at the Manchester Hope Mill Theater and has now moved to the Park Theatre. And it is indeed a very grand performance, of impressive range and retention as Lipman sits alone on stage to conjure up Sherman’s words. Just for endurance, it’s hard to imagine a more demanding one-woman show, and Pink lasts at all but twice the length of a standard monologue.

Yet it’s also one that demands a lot from its audience, and Scott Le Crass’ entirely static production focuses solely on Lipman sitting on a bench with few props and visual aids such as projections or photographs to back up the stories. It ends up working against the piece, defying focus as the years pass, locations fade, and Rose’s style of consciousness begins to feel the weight of its episodic structure.

No event or character is thoroughly investigated, as the play travels from the ravages of war-torn Europe in the early and mid-century, to nation-building opportunities in the Middle East and the commercial freedoms of the United States. In the United States, Sherman takes an overview of Rose’s life and rarely stops to admire the view. Like a William Boyd novel, the goal is to embrace this expanse rather than dwell on specific events, capturing the process of change as much as the defining moments.

Still, there are plenty of interesting things in Sherman’s play that are little more than lip service. The first act, which takes Rose to 1947, begins to question her reliability as a storyteller, saying repeatedly that she doesn’t want to remember but talks anyway while enduring several events she thinks are hallucinations. . The second act forgets most of that to look at Rose’s domestic life and the comfortable contrast that creates a split in Jewish identity between the old and the new world, those living through the Holocaust and those living in the Modern Israel, but he never goes into detail long enough. to really explore the consequences of this for the protagonist.

There’s no fault of Lipman who brings these dramatic memoirs to life with almost nothing but Sherman’s words and finds a dry, detached wit that lands very well. Lipman’s Rose has an epic, domestic quality to it, and it’s a performance full of craftsmanship. But Le Crass’ straightforward staging is beginning to seem relentless.

Until October 15, 2022

About Norma Wade

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