ROSE COTTAGE: Steve Pearce
Next Page at Old Joint Stock, Birmingham
Runs: 1h 15m, no interval, to 18 December
Review: Rod Dungate
A lively and likeable slice of life.
A hospital morgue is the unlikely setting for this chirpy comedy. Two hospital cleaners regularly take a snatched fag break in the morgue (known to staff as Rose Cottage to spare the patients’ feelings.) They meet there because it’s warmer than outside. At the beginning of the play they’re joined by new cleaner, young Polish immigrant, Agnieska.
In a series of sharply drawn scenes the women discuss their lives and we learn of the pressures on them that are keeping them back. This, and the absence of any real drama, could mean a play that’s dead before it hits the water. But Pearce writes with a nicely honed pen (well, word processor I suspect) and also manages the speed at which we learn information well, so that we’re hooked into the women’s lives.
The three women characters are excellent foils for each other and the three actors create a genuine sense of ensemble and care. There are some beautifully observed sequences – particularly surrounding the ‘fit guy in intensive care’ which combines the magic ingredients of truthful, humorous and disgraceful.
Jenny Stephens, who directs, underpins the play with an easy-going rhythm that relaxes us in the Old Joint Stock’s intimate playing space. Occasionally the acting is a little too big for the space and the elongated episodes between scenes tend to stretch the play beyond its comfortable length.
Bernice: Alison Belbin
Agnieska: Aleksandra Everitt
Carla: Caroline Nash
Directed by: Jenny Stephens