Richard Beecham

Broken Glass ★★★★

Broken Glass ★★★★

A wonderfully lucid account of Arthur Miller’s powerful psychodrama. In Broken Glass Arthur Miller addresses the fate of Jews in Nazi Germany through the reactions of one New York Jewish family to the news of Kristallnacht in November 1938. Haunted by graphic news images coming out of Germany…

Review: Rose ★★★★ - We expected a tour de force and were not disappointed

From the moment Janet Suzman, as Rose, appeared dressed all in black, sitting on a single white bench on an empty stage, the audience was gripped.

Rose was sitting shiva, and as her story unfolded over the next two hours, recounting her journey from a Ukrainian shtetl through all the vicissitudes of a Jewish 20th Century, she sat shiva repeatedly. Each time – for a parent, a child, a husband, victims of the repeated manifestations of antisemitism – a slender shower of sand descending from a hole in the roof of the stage was the only visual accompaniment to Rose’s narrative.

This relatively simple device and the subtle changes of lighting bear witness to the imaginative direction of Richard Beecham.

This powerful one-woman play by Martin Sherman debuted in 1999, at the close of that turbulent and violent century for the Jewish people.  Yet, with the increase in antisemitism, the rise to power of untrustworthy leaders and the overwhelming refugee crisis, the story has, if anything, increasing resonance for this century.

What a bitter irony that this revival was being performed at HOME, Manchester’s proud arts and cultural centre in the city suffering the aftermath of one of this century’s cruellest terrorist outrages.

Tragic though Rose’s journey was, Sherman injected frequent witty asides into his script, aimed with perfect timing at the audience in Suzman’s stellar performance.

One woman in black, the brief whiteness in her extraordinarily expressive face and hands, held the audience transfixed, moved and entertained.

Every shiva house has its occasional lighter moments, so it was to be expected that in sitting shiva for an entire century, Janet Suzman succeeded in bringing wit, humanity and even a little hope to this tragic story.

By Gita Conn

Photos by Simon Annand

Rose runs until Saturday 10 June. 7.30pm, 2pm (1, 3, 7 & 10 Jun only). £10-£26.50. Home, Manchester, M15 4FN. 01612 001 500.

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Rose comes HOME: Richard Beecham and Janet Suzman discuss the play's return in Manchester

“There is no more demanding role in the canon than Rose,” declared Richard Beecham, director of the first UK revival of Martin Sherman’s award-winning play, which premiered at the National Theatre in 1999.

This one-actor tour de force about persecution, displacement and survival stars Dame Janet Suzman in what Beecham describes as an “extraordinary role for an older actress” and runs at HOME, Manchester, until Saturday 10 June. “Older chaps get the parts,” he explained when he and Suzman spoke to the press prior to the play’s opening. She agreed that there were too few roles for older actresses and interjected with a wry smile: “I can understand why Glenda Jackson said ‘bugger it – I’ll play King Lear’.”

Beecham describes how Sherman has written about “an extraordinary century for Jewish people”, which chimed, according to him, with the enormous refugee crisis we are living through now. “It feels current. It actually feels like a 21st century play,” he stressed.

The play is “a cracker about a life lived with wit and energy”, with Suzman adding: “Refugees are unbearably brave. They need to get out and so does Rose; she is in crisis all the time, facing a series of terrible choices.” From her home in Florida, an 80-year-old Rose takes us through her long life: from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, through Nazi occupied Warsaw, to Palestine, America and the so-called Occupied Territories.

When I ask Suzman to what extent she identifies with Rose, she replies by clasping both hands tightly together: “Like that!” She exclaims. “I have pity and respect for people who’ve had a ghastly life. I rebelled [in South Africa’s apartheid days], boycotted, was kicked around by police… I didn’t want to act in comfortable little plays or domestic comedy. I wanted to be on the edge.”

Rose, she says, is the first Jewish part she's played, describing her own attitude like Jonathan Miller’s: 'Jew-ish'. She proceeds to challenge us to name one good role written for a Jewish mother and states, in her deep, rich, resonant voice: “I haven’t Jew-ished myself.”

By Gita Conn

Rose runs until Saturday 10 June. 7.30pm, 2pm (1, 3, 7 & 10 Jun only). £10-£26.50. Home, Manchester, M15 4FN. 01612 001 500.

Click here to read more theatre features.