“Lipman gives an exemplary performance in control and poise”
Maureen Lipman shows herself to be a consummate storyteller in Martin Sherman’s epic turn of the millennium one-woman play. Directed by Scott Le Crass, Lipman sits almost unmoving for two and a half hours as she relates the life-story of Rose, an eighty-year-old Jewish survivor of the previous century’s turmoil.
Rose sits purposefully on a wooden bench, centre stage, observing shiva; for whom we do not initially know. With a minimal set (Designer David Shields), two walls meet behind where she sits. Understated light changes – red, purple, lilac (Lighting Designer Jane Lalljee) and subtle background music and sound effects – music from an accordion, train noise, flames of the burning Warsaw ghetto, the soft thud of a rifle shot (Sound Designer and Composer Julian Starr) – reflect and illustrate Rose’s recollections.
Rose chats to us, mixing the prosaic with the sensational. For Lipman, it is a great feat of concentration and stamina. For the audience too there is a lot to listen to; every word seems important.
Rose’s remarkable story takes her from a pogrom in her native Ukraine, to the Warsaw ghetto, into Germany, and onto a barely seaworthy ship heading for Palestine pursued by the British Navy. Along the way she recounts her loves and losses including that of her first husband and the shooting of her only daughter. Finally escaping a refugee train heading to ‘nowhere’ in Europe, Rose enters America.
Rose admits herself to being an unreliable narrator. Does her recollection of Cossacks ransacking the family home come from a real childhood memory or a scene from Fiddler on the Roof? Despite the deep subject, there is much humour in the telling. Some comments are genuinely funny, some poignant, some ironic. And when Lipman lands a joke her eyes twinkle and a wry smile shares the humour with the audience. Only once does Lipman raise her voice above the conversational and the scene is the most impactful for that.
It is no wonder that the second half of the play cannot keep up with the pace as Rose embarks on a new life in America with husband number two, who himself cannot live up to the memories of lost husband number one. Perhaps one domestic story here is a trifle long and some direction in the narrative is lost. Until, that is, members of Rose’s family become involved in hostilities on the West Bank which stir up feelings in Rose that her life has been one long conflict. And thus her need to sit shiva. And to share her story.
Maureen Lipman gives an exemplary performance in control and poise. There are no histrionics, her power lies in her natural timing, use of silence, and her ability to hold the audience to her every word and every breath. A masterclass in acting.
“There is joy and hilarity in the horrors of the heteronormativity it explores”
Stephanie Martin’s play, ‘Thirsty’ is a heart-breaking and manic deep dive into the truth of going through a breakup in your late twenties as a queer woman.
We meet Sara, fresh out of a relationship, looking for a way to cope with the pain of being dumped by the woman she loves. She turns to the people around her for support, including her Bridget Jones-esque friendship group full of larger-than-life characters, who, despite having good intentions, don’t completely understand the intricacies of queer relationships or their fallout.
Louise Beresford as Sara immediately breaks the fourth wall and forms allyship with the audience, creating a Fleabag-style breakaway narrative that gives audiences an insight into the truth of Sara’s thoughts throughout the whole play. This, and other choices of form and dialogue, contribute to the beautiful and subtle nod to neurodivergence in the character, and create a sense of intimacy and trust between the players and the audience.
We meet a large array of side characters, multi-rolled by a talented cast made up of women and non-binary actors. A particular mention to Anna Spearpoint, who presents a showcase of comedic characters, one of which is the best friend of Sara. Her earnest and hilarious choices make for a memorable performance, and bring diversity through her accent and acting style. She is definitely one to watch.
This is a show made by queer people, for queer people. It also offers an indifferent truth to the reality of heartbreak which anyone can relate to, and displays how these experiences can be altered massively by the people around you. There is joy and hilarity in the horrors of the heteronormativity it explores, and it offers an insight into the queer world; its kinks, its language, and the marginalisation still present within it.
“Are you going to go back to dating men? Do I have to?”
It engages in a lively pace to keep the audiences invested and by the end, slightly exhausted by the moments and memories we explore – again, a realistic insight into the mind of the character taking us through the story. Scott Le Crass’ impeccable direction utilises tools such as flashback, dance and play with the space to create a contemporary and exciting performative world.
Stephanie Martin’s ability to create honest yet hilarious conversations drives this piece, and an audience finds itself settled into the tone of the piece within minutes. This is a show that knows exactly what it is. Jokes, puns, and punchlines are sprinkled throughout the entire script, catching an audience by surprise. Within a minute the show takes you from laughter to wiping a tear. It is a piece that is so real, those who can identify with it might find it slightly painful.
The joy that has come from Scott Le Crass’ play with the space, beams through the actors. It is one of the best intimate scenes I’ve seen played out on stage, and the actors didn’t even touch.
Thirsty is a queer heartbreak story, that teaches us about the lives of the characters we meet, and if you lean into it, will teach you something about yourself. It is also a reminder that even if something looks perfect from the outside, the reality can be far from it.
A perfect show for VAULT Festival, with a guaranteed life after this run.