Catherine Banks‘ Bitter Rose is a work of many layers. The newest performance mounted by Matchstick Theatre and directed by Jake Planinc is a one-woman show built on the superb talent of Kim Parkhill. Clad in a wedding dress blotched by three mysterious red spots, Rose has a story to tell; it’s in her eyes, her step and smile, and her unexplained refusal to answer her constantly ringing telephone.
Parkhill throws herself into 43-year-old Rose: a former rising artistic star, a painter brimming with potential before gradually becoming curtailed by her marriage and subsequent birth of two children. Rose’s loss is erosion — we delve into the monotonous routine that is her day-to-day; the audience becomes confidant as we learn about her emotionally unaware and oblivious husband Bill, as well her relationship with her two unappreciative teenage daughters. Rose has thrown every once of herself into her life such that her inherent need to paint has fallen by the wayside; blank canvases and jettisoned art projects adorn The Bus Stop Theatre’s stage and it’s sometimes tough to watch.
Rose builds and builds a case so compelling and enormous that soon enough she’s constructed a wall that’s an insurmountable obstacle to achieving her previously abandoned goals. In doing so, Parkhill demonstrates a whirlwind of emotions, seamlessly moving between moments of extreme sadness, humour, and betrayal; she’s as much a delight to watch expressing loathing towards past life decisions as she is making sarcastic jabs at oblivious onlookers who supplant themselves into her life. But the show’s real power comes from Rose’s conflict with the burden of motherhood and the degree to which everyone has expected it to encompass her identity. Rose is a hard-working wife and mom but her entire sacrifice has gone virtually unnoticed by everyone around her; to paint is an excruciating revival of suppressed emotion and it’s in the moments where Rose grapples with these social expectations that Bitter Rose resonates.
With a sadly short run that ends on the 11th, the sardonic yet touching performance of Bitter Rose is an art project that has something to say about love and marriage and the frustration that accompanies dashed dreams. It’s on-stage proof that, although life is not beholden to accommodating our passions or best interests, it is by accepting this thought that we can begin to forge new paths.
All photos courtesy Matchstick Theatre.