LILAC Yosiphon is an exciting new talent – both onstage and as a playwright. She is not frightened to push at boundaries as her new play, Jericho’s Rose, demonstrates.
The play is ambitious in scope, tackling big issues of the moment – the awfulness of Alzheimer’s and seeking a home in a world where, increasingly, no one wants you if you are an immigrant. Cleverly, Yosiphon links these key issues of our time through a common denominator: loss of identity.
The play is built around the relationship between a grand-daughter and grand-father with Yosiphon acting both roles, supported on occasion by her pre-recorded voice.
While grand-father, once a successful author living in Baghdad and now based in Tel Aviv, is gripped by Alzheimer’s, grand-daughter (suitcase and passport at her side) is searching for a country that she can truly call her own. Although born in Israel, she is unable to call it home – a result (presumably) of her refusal to do military service. She (Yasmin) is a theatre-maker.
The UK will not renew her visa unless she can prove she is an exceptional talent – proof that needs to be verified independently. An outcast, she flits from country to country (Italy, France and America), occasionally indulging in random sex.
It is an exhausting play. For Yosiphon who is perpetual motion – dancing, going round in circles and drinking like a fish. And for the audience as the grand-father’s condition deteriorates and his memory fails. He asks the same questions repeatedly: ‘Where do you live?’ He thinks people are in his room (they are not). At the end, he has no idea he is living in a retirement home. Sad. Very sad.
Some of it is heart-breaking. ‘Do I know you?’ asks grand-father. ‘I am Yasmin,’ says grand-daughter. ‘My grand-daughter’s name is Yasmin,’ replies grand-father.
There are also some funny comments as she derides Woody Allen and his films for making her even more depressed.
Although this is Yosiphon’s play, Jericho’s Rose would not work as well without the musical accompaniment of Sam Elwin and the effective lighting (occasionally stunning) of Will Monks.
Jericho’s Rose (the name of the scar that adorns grand-father’s face) is a demanding play – some of it is in Hebrew, French and Arabic – but it is brave and probing with Yosiphon managing to build an immediate empathy with the audience.
Finally, hats off to The Carne Trust for supporting the play’s making. And for The Hope Theatre (Islington, London) in agreeing to stage it.