The Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester really is a gem. Just outside the city centre, you would never guess it was there if you weren’t looking for it. With just 120 seats it’s the epitome of intimate. I have enjoyed lots of great productions here such as last year’s outstanding production of Rent and new musical Lizard Boy which later stormed the Edinburgh fringe. This time I was there to see Dame Maureen Lipman’s one woman show Rose, hoping it would live up to the high standard that I’ve come to expect from the venue
Martin Sherman’s Rose follows the story of a Jewish woman’s life from humble Ukrainian beginnings all the way to her later life in America. It is difficult to pull off a one woman show, but Lipman does so with absolute ease. At times I forgot I was seeing a performance at all. It was almost as if I was authentically hearing a Jewish lady telling me about her life and times from the bench where Lipman sat for the 2.5 hour show. The simple staging and lack of a typical head mic may have helped with this illusion. However, the power of the lighting design by Jane Lalljee in conveying emotion shouldn’t be ignored.
Lipman had the audience in the palm of her hand, taking us all on the journey of a life lived. Hanging on every word we were taken through themes such as antisemitism and oppression. These being sadly still prevalent today only made the piece more hard hitting. However, this was often juxtaposed with moments of great humour where the audience couldn’t hold back their laughter. A very well-deserved standing ovation was one of few reminders that I was at the theatre and not listening to Rose herself, but that is the power of great theatre.
Once again, the Hope Mill have hit it out of the park and it isn’t hard to see why the rest of the Manchester run is completely sold out. Those in London are in better luck as some tickets remain for Rose the Park Theatre from 13 Sep - 15 Oct. Catch it while you can, you won’t regret it.