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Maureen Lipman in Rose by Martin Sherman

Rose is a 150-minute-long, one-woman play, written by Martin Sherman, which premiered in 1999 at the Royal National Theatre when Olympia Dukakis played Rose followed by Janet Suzman in 2017. It was revived last year at Hope Mill Theatre featuring Maureen Lipman in the title role and has now transferred to London’s West End. The play follows the life of an 80-year-old Jewish woman, Rose, who takes us on a journey through her tumultuous life from Ukraine to Florida via the Warsaw Ghetto, Atlantic City and many other places. Rose has had many tragedies in her life but seems able to brush them aside and carry on with resignation and a large helping of humour.

Rose - credit Mark Senior
Rose – credit Mark Senior

Sherman says in a rather verbose programme note that in the play “there are pieces of my life, pieces of other lives…. pieces of fantasy thrown… into a stew. And then you stir”. He also says that “playwrights shouldn’t talk about their own work” and then proceeds to – at length!! Part of the problem with Sherman’s overlong, over-static play is brought up by Rose herself when she questions whether what she half-remembers is influenced by having seen Fiddler on the Roof. Rose never seems to emerge as a distinctive personality but rather as a Jewish “everywoman”.

Maureen Lipman is quietly charismatic in this role, almost making one forget the imperfections in the writing, which veers towards the self-indulgent, especially in the over-long Act Two.

She just sits on a hard wooden bench, reminiscing to each of us in the audience, and she is so adept at doing this that for much of the time, we feel we are the only other person present in the theatre. However, one feels that, occasionally, the director, Scott Le Crass, should have let her stretch her legs, but no, she remains seated in one position throughout. The upside of this is that we can marvel and learn from her oh-so-natural acting skills. Lipman commands the stage with her erect physicality – Rose may be 80 but she has been taught how to sit! Then the use of arms and hand gestures is magical and subtle, and what young, expressive hands she has! Facially she appears to do little but there is always that hint of a smile or tear, of remembering both the good and the bad of the past, no matter what she may be saying at the time. Rose tells us that she has breathing difficulties, her doctor is unsurprised because she talks so much, but she is allowed a bottle of water which is used very cleverly so that it is finished at the same time as the play. This portrayal is a true masterclass of acting skills honed during the course of a long acting career.

David Shields has designed a simple ‘L’ shaped acting area set on a rostrum which cleverly concentrates the attention, Jane Lalljee has added visual interest with various coloured lighting changes and Julian Starr has added some extremely faint background sound and music: so faint that several times I wondered if I was hearing tube trains below the theatre or traffic outside.

Well worth seeing for all students of actors and acting. Maureen Lipman is magical – a master of her craft!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

The award-winning, critically acclaimed production of Martin Sherman’s ROSE transfers to the West End this summer, playing at the Ambassadors Theatre for 28 performances only from Tuesday 23 May. Following sell-out runs at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, and Park Theatre in London, Maureen Lipman will once again take the role of ‘Rose’ – a performance described as one of ‘unassailable greatness’ (Whatsonstage.com).

Rose, a woman whose tumultuous journey through anarchic times takes her from the devastation of Nazi- occupied Europe to the allure of the American dream. Through the life of one woman, Rose tells the story of a century where everything changed except the violence of the strong against the weak.


‘ROSE’ Maureen Lipman
Director Scott Le Crass
Writer Martin Sherman
Set and Costume Designer David Shields
Lighting Designer Jane Lalljee
Sound Designer and Composer Julian Starr
Producers Thomas Hopkins
Michael Quinn
Guy Chapman
Sarig Peker
Keren Misgav Ristvedt
Pinnacle Productions in association with Julian Stoneman, Creative House Productions, Sisco Entertainment Group.
General Management G&T Theatrical
Production Management Setting Line

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  5. Sky Arts and BroadwayHD: Maureen Lipman’s digital drama, Rose


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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2 thoughts on “Maureen Lipman in Rose by Martin Sherman”

  1. Brilliant portrayal by the incredible Maureen Lipman whose acting skills are so cosmopolitan. To be able to hold an audience for so long shows skill, an incredible memory, an marvellous acting skills. An experience not to be missed.

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