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Jericho’s Rose at The Hope Theatre | Review

Jericho's Rose, The Hope Theatre - Lilac Yosiphon (Courtesy of Lidia Crisafulli)
Jericho’s Rose, The Hope Theatre – Lilac Yosiphon (Courtesy of Lidia Crisafulli)

Jasmine (Lilac Yosiphon) has lived in London for some time now, and clearly loves it. But circumstances in Jericho’s Rose arise that means she can only stay for so long, and when her visa doesn’t get renewed, well, there’s a reason why there’s a battered green suitcase on stage. I haven’t a clue whether it was pandering to a London audience, but when she’s away from the big smoke, she is frustrated and wants to go back: it appears nothing can dissuade this lady from Tel Aviv to set up ‘home’. A creaking transport system, public services under strain, rent rising ever higher – she’s having none of it.

Asked repeatedly by her grandfather where she lives now and what she does for a living, what would otherwise be a highly irritating is borne with stoicism, by performer and audience, as the grandfather has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In providing as much repetition as this production does, there is a danger that the show starts to make light of the man’s condition. It is doubtful that this is the show’s intention – the only memorable amusing moment comes in the form of Jasmine’s botched response to being asked out at a nightclub – but I’m still not sure what to make of a late scene, in which seemingly random answers were supplied to the grandfather’s questions, only to be met with the usual, “Yes, of course.”

I am not sure either as to how the pre-show music should be described. It was eerie without being eerie, with high-pitched sounds (not vocals) wafting across the theatre space as though the show were to be extremely abstract, perhaps to enter into another dimension. As it turned out, proceedings very much took place on the same planet in which we inhabit, with a guitar chord denoting the end of a scene – some skilful live musicianship comes courtesy of Sam Elwin. The show has its ways, with an uncluttered performance space, of switching quickly from one scene to the next.

The show seems to go overboard in highlighting the state of the grandfather’s mind, which, as his doctor’s explanation tells the audience, is responding to the only sort of treatment that can be provided: prescription medication to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s. Indeed, he does not deteriorate that much during the play, in the grand scheme of things, that one wonders if this seventy-five-minute performance could be, reasonably easily, condensed to around sixty. On the other hand, at least this production doesn’t try to cram too much narrative into a single act.

This isn’t the first play to explore progressive mental illness in the elderly (it’s not even the first one in the Hope Theatre to do so). As Jasmine is so well-travelled (as her grandfather was some decades ago) there are bits of dialogue in various languages, though this is momentary and sparing. What is perhaps most disorienting are the sudden switches to highly charged scenes involving physical theatre, where relative calm is quickly displaced with ecstatic movement. These non-verbal action sequences were somewhat unclear.

What might have been a self-congratulatory use of the term ‘exceptional talent’ is mitigated by the need, according to the voiceover of an immigration lawyer, for “a national publication, preferably a printed newspaper” to describe Jasmine in such terms. Whilst I found it difficult, to be frank, to maintain interest throughout, the singing, acting and vocal delivery are indeed impressive, and it’s one to see if the avant-garde or something far removed from the mainstream is the sort of theatre you enjoy.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

The award-winning Althea Theatre (There’s No Place Like; One Last Thing (For Now)) return to London, following their US tour, with Jericho’s Rose.
Exploring the experience of displacement from the dual perspective of a grandfather struggling with Alzheimer’s and an artist struggling to stay in the UK, Jericho’s Rose is about searching for a home that can’t be found. The show takes the audience on a breath-taking journey across continents to ask what happens when you can’t remember where you belong?

Fresh from the Migration Matters Festival 2018, Jericho’s Rose is a uniquely innovative and beautiful piece about the inescapable isolation of displacement and how identity is built around the home. With discussions of borders never long out of the news-cycle and one in six people expected to develop dementia, Jericho’s Rose empowers a stronger dialogue around the subjects of both immigration and Alzheimer’s. It weaves new writing and projections, movement, live music and loop-pedalled sound to create a unique tapestry of fragmented memories: the remembered, the forgotten and the rediscovered.

Jericho’s Rose
Performance Dates Tuesday 16th October – Saturday 3rd November 2018
Tuesday – Saturday, 7:45pm
Running time 80 minutes
Twitter @AltheaTheatre @LilacYosiphon @TheHopeTheatre

Writer, Performer and Co-Director Lilac Yosiphon
Movement and Co-Director Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster
Dramaturgy and Co-Director Mike Cole
Music and Composition Sam Elwin
Lighting and Projection Will Monks
Location The Hope Theatre, 207 Upper Street, London, N1 1RL


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