Park Theatre


Martin Sherman's story of a Jewish woman sitting Shiva on her 80th birthday is one of the most moving and extraordinary theatrical experiences you will see this year.

Thanks to a tour de force performance by Maureen Lipman, it's an intense, often harrowing, but also very funny two hours as we meet Rose, perched on a simple wooden, altar-like bench around the time of the Millennium.

She was born in a tiny Ukrainian village near modern-day Chernobyl – once again familiar as a place of violence and displacement – and her life has been battered by the forces of the 20th Century. Growing up in a family that didn't value education for girls, Rose struggled through the terrible Stalinist purges, encountering the Cossacks arriving when she was 14 "with their “big whips and beautiful faces".

“I suppose if you have your first period and your first pogrom within the same month you can safely assume childhood is over,” she says wryly.

She makes her way to Warsaw where she meets the one-eyed love of her life and survives the Nazi massacre of the Ghetto, but spends two years living in the sewers. Then she travels onwards, as a displaced person, to the horrors of war shattered Dresden.

She was on board the Exodus in 1947 when it was attacked by the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean on its way to Palestine. She eventually winds up, married, in Atlantic City and even has a hotel named after her.

Lipman's performance is astonishing as she delivers Sherman’s monologue with a seemingly casual but authentic familiarity in a warm American Jewish accent. Yiddish phrases are interlaced with tenderness and humour, in a way that makes the more graphic, horrific passages somehow palatable. Sherman, whose previous play Bent explored the experiences of gay men in the Holocaust, has past form here.

The end was greeted by a ten-minute standing ovation from the emotionally drained but heartened full house.

Rose runs at Park Theatre, Finsbury Park until October 15. Visit