Fiona York @ The Jade Monkey
5:00pm, Thu 28 Feb 2008
Returning to The Jade Monkey for the first time since last year, I’m reminded about the great vibe in the place – it still feels like a lush little artist haven, and it just begs for performance. Atop the stage in the corner, there’s an old wooden bench and two lights.
Fiona York quietly arrives and takes her place on the bench; she’s playing Rose, an eighty-year old Jewish woman, and she’s currently sitting shiva, mourning… well, we don’t quite know who she’s mourning until the end of the performance but, in explaining why she’s there, we’re treated to a monologue lasting nearly two hours.
Rose originally hails from a small village in the Ukraine; we follow her upbringing, travels to Poland, her first marriage and child – and her capture and internment during World War II. Death of loved ones, bureaucracy, and an attempted escape to Palestine, then America. Another husband, another child; more death, more tragedy.
The second Act starts as though the first never happened; the outpouring of emotion from fifteen minutes ago is replaced by light-hearted reminiscences – Rose finds a new job, loses another husband, and we bear witness to the network of friends she develops, and the family that develops too. And, in dealing with the plight of her children and grandchildren, we see Rose for the person she really is: one who is in constant inner conflict, who doesn’t necessarily believe in God, but believes wholeheartedly in Judaism. She revels in her culture, and it breaks her heart to see it used in vain in the acts of her family, her blood.
Despite a minor attack of the Dozey Monster in the first Act, I was riveted by the story on offer in Rose; though it’s only a monologue, York commands attention from her wooden bench. Her lighting is simple but, with the sun ducking behind clouds and the glass front door of The ‘Monkey, the set – and York’s face – lifts and falls in the varying light. It’s mesmerising and, combined with the performance, intoxicating.
In a Fringe that has, with only a handful of exceptions, thrown up few engaging experiences, the run home in Rose is truly memorable. It’s a shame that, in such a wonderful venue, there were only seven people there to experience it.