Playwright Rose Lewenstein
Playwright Rose Lewenstein

Last year, for the first time in her life, Rose Lewenstein threw a Passover party. Fuelled by her own curiosity and frustrated at people constantly asking her if she was Jewish, she wanted to know what she was missing out on.

Together with a friend, the 29-year-old read some Hebrew prayers found on the internet, broke Matzah and ate chopped liver and chicken soup made with ingredients from the Kosher section at Waitrose.

Born in Mile End Hospital and brought up on Chatsworth Road, the playwright says the real answer to where she came from is in fact “all over”.

Her new play Now This Is Not The End, which opens at the Arcola this month, explores some of those feelings of disorientation from one’s roots, family and homeland.

Three of Rose’s grandparents were born outside of the UK and although her parents have Jewish ancestry, they are not religious, nor do they practice Jewish customs.

Her name does indeed suggest a Jewish connection but for Lewenstein, heritage manifests itself more like “a niggling feeling that I don’t really know where my home is”.

Her play, starring Brigit Forsyth, concerns three generations of women from the same family who are separated by geography and their relationship to their own heritage.

Lewenstein asserts that the play is not autobiographical but rather, like herself “the characters are searching for something they weren’t brought up with”.

Having begun her professional career on stage as an actor, singer, and dancer, Lewenstein trained at the Brit School and the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

But it was getting her play read at the Royal Court Theatre which was the turning point. After that she found herself abandoning auditions, instead choosing to stay at home and work on her own plays and occasionally as a journalist.

A recent piece of hers for Vice magazine detailed the shocking statistics around women professionals in the theatre.

A poll taken on a random evening in the West End found only 5 per cent of shows were written by women. In real terms this amounted to just one play and one writer – Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap.

Discouraged by the statistics, her response was ‘What’s the point?’ but gradually that feeling of despair galvanised itself into productivity.
“I really wanted to write a play that puts women centre stage,” she says. “Where they are not wives or daughters, but at the centre of the drama.”

Now This is Not the End is at Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL until 27 June.
arcolatheatre.co.uk

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