Rika’s Rooms

Gail Louw
The Playground Theatre and Oxia Theatre
The Playground Theatre London

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Emma Wilkinson Wright as Rika Credit: Bastian Knapp
Emma Wilkinson Wright as Rika Credit: Bastian Knapp
Emma Wilkinson Wright as Rika Credit: Bastian Knapp

The intense monologue Rika’s Rooms by Gail Louw is performed by Emma Wilkinson Wright as the seventy-six-year-old Jewish woman living in England, struggling with dementia and troubling memories from three periods in her life.

The narrative continuously switches between brief accounts of her current situation and longer reflections on past events.

There is the upsetting way she had to separate from her parents in 1939 as a 14-year-old allowed to leave Germany. She joins a kibbutz in Palestine where her older sister already lived, is astonished to find they all share each other’s clothes and is irritated that someone tells her off on her first day for not working before she expected breakfast. She is attracted to Nathan, who will later ask her to marry him because the Kibbutz has told him he can’t remain with them unless he gets married.

She accuses herself of having committed a murder and of being “a terrorist” with the paramilitary organisation of the Irgun fighting the British occupiers of Palestine. They arrange for her to entice a gentle British colonel into a sexual encounter at the King David Hotel. She is genuinely drawn to the man and has mixed feelings about leaving him to his fate.

Although that group is also notorious for having murdered many Palestinians, including over a hundred people in the Deir Yassin Massacre, the play makes no mention of the non-Jewish indigenous people of Palestine.

We see more of her social conscience later when she marries a white man from South Africa and goes to live with him in apartheid South Africa, which he describes as “a land of milk and honey.” She is surprised by and critical of the way they treat black people.

This thoughtful story drawn from the life of the playwright’s mother is an engaging glimpse of some disturbing 20th-century events that continue to trouble the world.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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