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ONLINE THEATRE Brief lives brave lockdown

MARY CONWAY recommends a touching short drama on people trying to connect during the pandemic

Watching Rosie
Original Theatre Online

SHORT plays are catching on at a time when brief snippets of other people’s lives add colour and vigour to enforced domesticity and Watching Rosie — a miniature close-up of life in lockdown — is a little gem.

Written by Louise Coulthard and benefiting from a star cast, it’s a gentle, touching conversation between Rosie and her dementia-prone Gran. While the former is anxious and strained, Gran is coping, in a bemused sort of way, with an enforced lockdown imposed on her by a government who see her as a prime Covid risk.

Only when the doorbell rings and Gran leaps to the door for company, is there a sense of her desperate aloneness, otherwise masked by disconnected chit-chat interspersed with startling moments when her grasp on reality takes a sudden nose-dive.  

Her eagerness for company sees her trying hard to coax the delivery man in and even to set him up with the single and isolated Rosie, who is being transported around the house on screen like some kind of squeaking incubus.

Miriam Margolyes reins in her normal outrageousness to give us a Gran as real and lovable as if she were our own, while Amit Shah is the charming and instantly empathetic delivery man who sticks to the rules, doesn’t cross the threshold but, also desperate for company, connects instantly with the talking screen and almost makes a date.

Louise Coulthard herself brings us a warm and self-effacing Rosie who watches Gran with the kind of growing disbelief that characterises the despairing relatives of dementia sufferers.

As Rosie watches Gran and we watch Rosie, Michael Fentiman directs the whole piece as a slice of modern life, with the heightened moments of humour gently reminding us that this is art and not reality.  

And, at barely 15 minutes, the play feels like a simple watercolour capturing in a moment both character and situation.

It’s easy to feel dissatisfied by a drama that in the end doesn’t play out. But Watching Rosie doesn’t intend to be a drama — it’s a moment in time that speaks to the present climate.

Available online until September 30, originaltheatreonline.com

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