Following on from There’s No Place Like and One Last Thing (For Now), Althea Theatre return with a new production – this time a one-woman show entitled Jericho’s Rose, running at The Hope Theatre in Islington. As ever, the company have both national and international topics embedded at the core of their work (including the continuing issue of Brexit), though this new play also explores a health issue that transcends geographical borders: Alzheimer’s Disease. Althea Theatre’s artistic director Lilac Yosiphon has written this piece, in which she also stars.
Jasmine is a theatremaker from Israel who’s currently living and working in London, but her visa is up for renewal and the goalposts have been moved since her previous (successful) application. When she finds out it has been rejected, she has to make a swift exit and faces the challenge of garnering reviews from a national publication outside of the UK before she can return on an Exceptional Talent visa; over the coming months she finds herself in Paris, Venice, Los Angeles and New York City, as well as spending time back in Tel Aviv. Her beloved grandpa has Alzheimer’s, so remembering details about Jasmine is becoming more and more difficult – he often has to ask her several times what she does and where she lives. He also used to be a writer, though books were his medium, and previously lived in Baghdad; both have been displaced at different points in their lives and the feeling of being at home is consequently very important to them.
Out of necessity, with the Alzheimer’s patient a key part of the story, there is a fair amount of repetition of blocks of text when Grandpa is talking to Jasmine. What I don’t quite understand is why we hear these blocks several times in one section, with Yosiphon switching between talking as Grandpa & Jasmine (also with recordings of the other side of the conversation being played out) – to me, it doesn’t really add anything to it and it makes a 75-minute show feel far, far longer. Ironically, given all the talk about going on journeys, these sections often make it feel like the play isn’t really going anywhere.
The ambition shown by this production is definitely something to be applauded, however. It’s made up of a blend of physical theatre, music (including vocal loops), and new writing, which does provide some variety and mixes things up a bit; some aspects are more effective than others at expressing emotions or conveying ideas, but it is a challenging & intriguing watch nonetheless. There is also an interesting use of lighting and projection (Will Monks), which makes some moments more visually engaging. Some of the projections onto the backdrop are slightly lost if you are sat on the side of the thrust setup, however you still get the idea – and the splashes of colour are definitely very welcome in the otherwise quite dark space.
Lilac Yosiphon is fully committed to telling the story, which is reflected in a captivating performance – she switches effortlessly between spoken word and song, as well as changing from Jasmine to Grandpa. She displays great control, and the harmonies she creates from looping her vocals towards the end are a treat for the ears.
My verdict? A challenging & intriguing watch that demonstrates a blend of various disciplines, but is also slightly repetitive at times – Lilac Yosiphon gives a committed & controlled performance.
Jericho’s Rose runs at The Hope Theatre until 3 November 2018. Tickets are available online or from the box office.