Rose, written by celebrated American playwright and screenwriter Martin Sherman whose extensive oeuvre contains over 20 plays which have been showcased in over 60 countries is the latest production showing at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg.
Rose largely centres the horrific experiences of Rose the character who was born in 1920 in a place called shtetl in Ukraine. It is a work of exquisite theatrical integrity and beauty as it takes the audience from a ghetto in Warsaw to the boardwalk of Miami in the United States of America and then to Israel once, and then a few times more as Rose the character moves back and forth spaces and tries to make sense of a changing world. The production introduces the audience to a bevy of interesting, conflicted, naive, and quirky characters who at one point or another have been in Rose’s life either as family, friends and even as lovers and all of them are brought to life in a vivid, humorous, and sometimes haunting and unsettling way.
This seminal two-hour production (with an intermission) is well worth its duration at a time when attention spans are not what they used to be as theatre struggles to compete with other art forms which are packaged differently and require less investment both financially and timewise.
Rose is not only about the experiences of one woman but is also largely an account of events which have shaped world history hence as the story unfolds one finds not only familiarity but also a sense of deja-vu as history seems to be repeating itself especially as it relates to the rise of intolerance, nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism and even more recently anti-Asian sentiments in the United States of American and other places as an unfortunate outcome to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rose premiered in May 1999 at the Royal National Theatre London and is a powerful, epic and spell-binding one-woman show which remains as intensely relevant and perhaps even more so now given the themes it so bravely articulates are still present realities.
The production opens with Rose the character “sitting shiva”, a Jewish practice done in memory and honour of a loved one who has passed on where relatives and mourners sit on low wooden benches to receive condolence calls – this symbolic sitting also becomes a powerful motif as the narrative progresses and then takes on its literal meaning towards the end of the show as the tragic reason for this shiva is revealed in painful detail.
Camilla Waldman best known for her role on long-running television soapie Generations as “Anne de Villiers” plays the role of Rose with such humour, care, compassion, and her character’s endless self-deprecation stands out as it makes the terrible events, which her character Rose recalls and retells a little more ‘palatable’ without taking away the legacy of their horror which has been captured through multiple artforms and other places of memory.
Camilla Waldman’s other theatre credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, Twilight of The Golds, Dark Outsider, Scenes From An Execution, Kafka Dances and Closer. Prior to featuring in the current production Camilla Waldman appeared in the Market Theatre’s commissioned recordings (due to Covid-19) of “Chilling with the Bard, a Shakespeare Season” as Richard, Duke of Gloucester in The Tragedy of King Richard the Third. Camilla Waldman does a thorough job in executing the role of Rose which is a mammoth task as she quite literally sits (shiva) for almost two hours and at the same time manages to capture and retain the attention of the audience throughout. A masterful performance!
Rose is expertly directed by legendary award-winning playwright, director and lecturer Malcolm Purkey who has had a long relationship with the Market Theatre where some of his work including the much-loved Sophiatown have been staged.
Rose is written by Martin Sherman, directed by Malcolm Purkey and features Camilla Waldman. It premiered at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg on 23 April and is on until 16 May 2021.