Digital theatre review: Watching Rosie
James R | On 12, Nov 2020
On Thursdays, we recommend theatre productions to stream online in support of the theatre industry. For more, see our full guide to what plays, musicals and concerts you can watch digitally.
From ITV’s Isolation Stories to BBC Four’s Unprecedented, not to mention Netflix’s Social Distance, the entertainment industry has responded in force to the coronavirus pandemic with a string of lockdown productions. Mostly monologues or two-handers filmed over Zoom or other video platforms, they’ve ranged from intimate tales of isolation and connection to Rob Savage’s horror film Host. But theatremakers have also taken to the web with their own productions, and while the thought of a lockdown story might feel old hat as we live through the second lockdown of 2020, Watching Rosie was one of the first out of the gates – and proved such a success with audiences that it’s been rereleased online this month.
Written by Louise Coulthard, the short play is adapted from her award-winning debut play Cockamamy, which played at the Fringe in 2017. An exploration of companionship, and based on her own experiences of caring for her grandmother living with dementia, the play follows Alice (Coulthard), the granddaughter of Rosie (Miriam Margolyes) who is concerned about her grandma’s well-being during the pandemic.
That feeling of fear, concern and distance is there from the off, as the simple sight of an empty screen is enough to leave her worrying the worst has happened. From the moment Miriam Margolyes is on screen, though, those concerns are waved away, and it’s a joy just to see the veritable national treasure taking centre-stage. Relaxed and informal in her own home, she’s as unflappable and breezy as you might expect – until she isn’t. Watching Rosie move back and forth between her animated self and quieter, scared or confused moments is heartbreakingly convincing.
Coulthard, who clearly knows these characters inside out, is equally fantastic, as she flits between caring, frustration and patient storytelling in a poignant role reversal of the parent-child dynamic. Their dynamic is kicked up a gear when the always-excellent Amit Shah appears as a volunteer Cavan, and director Michael Fentiman balances the cast’s cute chemistry with moments of tension, as Rosie sweeps up her laptop to turn director herself with her computer’s webcam. The result is a sweet, sensitively portrayed meditation on love overcoming disconnection and deterioration, filling the frame with tiny, telling details – and anyone watching with a tender warmth and a longing for bourbon creams.
Watching Rosie is streaming for free from 12th November until 26th November, with donations encouraged for Dementia UK and the Original Theatre Company. Watch it here.