Home Theatre, Manchester; Wednesday 31st May, 2017
Rose is 80 years old and knows that she’s on her way out. Her doctors prescribe pills that taste awful, they keep telling her to drink more water. So she does. But Rose is old enough and wise enough to know that no medicine will halt her inevitable decline. She says she’s in mourning, and that she’s been in mourning many times before; so begins the extraordinary tale of how a young girl from Ukraine went on to find herself in the unlikely setting of a Florida beach resort at the age of 80.
Martin Sherman’s play originally debuted in 1999, at a time when the world was looking to draw a line under the 20th century conflicts that so dramatically shaped and changed Rose’s life. Arguably, things have gotten worse since then, which makes the resurrection of Sherman’s Rose at Manchester’s Home theatre a timely and much-needed reminder that there is a complex human story behind every participant in today’s so-called migrant crisis.
Dame Janet Suzman takes on a sizeable challenge as the lead character: keeping an audience engaged and captive for a 2-hour-long solo performance is a big ask for any performer. But Suzman delivers with effortless expertise, her monologue seems almost improvised, there is no obvious sign that a script is being recited. The set and props are sparse, visual boredom began to creep in with nothing new to look at for two hours, but the quality of Suzman’s oration was enough to bring attention back into focus, aided by good use of atmospheric background lighting and some occasional sound effects.
Rose as a theatrical production is entirely held together by Suzman’s raw performing talent and the quality of the tale being told; this is a masterly story-telling performance, with a truly shocking twist at the end.