REVIEW: Jericho’s Rose (The Hope Theatre) ★★

Lilac Yosiphon writes, co-directs and performs this autobiographical exploration of memory, identity and language at the Hope Theatre. Yosiphon uses a mix of narration, dialogue, movement, dance and music to draw parallels between her grandfather’s loss of identity caused by his Alzheimer’s disease and her loss of home caused by her nomadic existence as an artist.

Yosiphon plays both young artist Jasmin and her grandfather, either by switching between the characters or by interacting with recorded voices, whilst musician Sam Elwin provides accompaniment on guitar. Additional music, often dance music, and projection is overlaid as well to move scenes across continents, from her grandfather’s flat in Tel Aviv to nightclubs in Paris or London.

The story covers a period when Jasmin is ejected from the UK and needs to seek media attention elsewhere in order to reapply for a Talent Visa. She regularly visits her grandpa in Israel to help care for him, but his questions repeat on a loop; ‘Where do you live now? What do you do there?’ Each visit the answers change as Jasmin’s live continues its chaotic turns.

Jasmin also shares some of her grandfather’s story, his Jericho Rose (a scar on his face), a life in Paris, having to flee Bagdad, and his writing but grandpa becomes angry as that is not her story to tell, she wasn’t there, and needs to focus on her own story.

The parallels between the lives of the two characters are somewhat hammered home, constant references to their life of the road, looped conversations and songs, no sense of what home means and the loss of their sense of identity. This all feels too stodgy and whilst there are welcome moments of levity they are too rare and the production becomes somewhat of a test of endurance.

Such is the focal point on Yosiphon that the production largely hangs on her performance and this too is mixed. She attacks the production with energy and gusto but she is clearly more comfortable when delivering the narrative than in the music and dance sections. There is clearly a talented individual at work and this is clearly a deeply personal story but perhaps this abstract approach to telling it is not getting the best out of the performer.

The lighting and projection by Will Monks is attractive and makes best use of the small and stark space in the Hope Theatre but the music and sound is as likely to distract the audience as it is to engage them.

This might have been an interesting piece that covered challenging issues around identity in a topical way but sadly the slightly messy approach means there is not enough satisfaction to be gained.

Reviewed by Kris Witherington
Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

Buy tickets to West End theatre shows (some great discounted offers)
Subscribe to my mailing list for all the latest theatre news, special offers and competitions