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Rose Cottage

Steve Pearce
24:7 Theatre Festival
Pure, Manchester
(2007)

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'Rose Cottage' is, apparently, a euphemism for the mortuary in a hospital, and in Steve Pearce's play it is the place where the night time cleaning staff go for a sly cigarette on their frequent, lengthy breaks.

Bernice is the older mother figure of the group; Carla is young, coarse and bitter, always complaining how she hates her life, job and husband but always with an excuse about why she can't change it; Agnieska has come over from Poland to earn some money so she can afford to get married. Carla is full of uninformed tabloid opinions about Agnieska and her countrymen about them being benefit scroungers and benefit thieves from a backward country which she can't keep to herself. Agnieska keeps sending money to her fiancé in Poland for him to join her but all she gets in return is excuses, and she asks Carla why she doesn't try to do something about the life she claims to hate. Bernice keeps the peace between the two younger women, until they eventually find an alliance.

There are some great ideas and interesting debates within this play and some genuinely funny lines, including some very effective comic blackout lines at the ends of some scenes. However these ideas and the plot get bogged down in too much talk that doesn't really get anywhere and some rather cheap, coarse gags. The really interesting developments in plot and characters don't occur until very late in the play when it's too late to really flesh them out, and even then they get caught up in repetitive arguments. Even the poignant ending with a surprising revelation about Bernice would be far more effective with far fewer words.

Diana Brooks and Kathryn Worthington effectively bring out the warmth and coldness respectively of Bernice and Carla, and Gemma North is superb as Agnieska with some very impressive dialogue in Polish.

Reviewer: David Chadderton