Martin Sherman's play Rose at the Park Theatre is framed by two identical killings decades apart, and the titular character witnesses both.
Played by Dame Maureen Lipman, Rose sits Shivah on a wooden bench, reflecting on her life.
Born in Ukraine in the 1920s, it is a life of searching and surviving; she moves towards the excitement of Warsaw as a teenager, and when the Nazis arrive survives by hiding.
After the war, her searching and surviving continue taking her across Europe and then the US via Palestine. Once in America, she moves driven by economics and opportunity.
But while this is a life shaped by brutal war and racism, it is also a life of love, romance, and humour. Rose, as played by Lipman, is witty and deadpan.
"I have only vague, wandering images of my childhood, but yesterday - I remember everything single thing about yesterday. Nothing happened yesterday."
She is not shy about the details and talks about love and sex almost in the same tone as losing loved ones. There are occasional emotional outbursts - anger and tears - but mostly, she is matter-of-fact, her vitality as a person expressed in her actions as described - and that humour.
Rose's is a life in 80 years of history or history in 80 years of life. It is a personal story shaped by big world events that show how lessons of history are never truly learned.
It is a static play, with Rose sitting telling her story, which means everything hangs on Lipman and her performance. And it is an excellent feat of acting endurance, delivering 2+ hours of storytelling with only the occasional pause to take a sip of water or eat some ice cream.
Her comic timing is superb.
That said, the pace and tone did mean I felt the running times on occasion.
Rose is a play about a life tested to the extremes but one which is lived as fully as possible, despite it. I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
Rose, Park Theatre
Directed by Scott Le Crass
Written by Martin Sherman
Running time 2.5 hours, including an interval
Booking until 15 October for more details and tickets, visit the Park Theatre website.
The Clinic, Almeida ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Who Killed My Father, Young Vic ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Silence, Donmar Warehouse ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Theatre coming up soon:
The Blue Alabama Sky, National Theatre and Candlesticks, White Bear Theatre