The goals that we set ourselves each January often involve a degree of self-improvement, or perhaps self-overhaul would be a better phrase. Rosa Hesmondhalgh has the same such goals, with the significant difference of being diagnosed with cancer aged 23. It is so easy to sympathize with a situation that you never imagine yourself being in, and yet Rosa reminds us how fragile life can be and instantaneously so full of love.
I look up to women that have the ability to take up space with an unapologetic wit and for me Rosa did this. She even addresses the elephant in the room of the overwhelming expectation to live up to the likes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge – who is undoubtedly fantastic at what she does. However, I would argue in this case that Rosa addresses the feelings of many who go towards a career in the arts with bundles of hope and no ordinance survey map to guide you through. From the outset the audience were responsive and invested in Rosa’s story, as she voiced the people around her and the internal spaghetti junction that was occurring inside her. The addition of the screen behind Rosa displaying ‘Tinder Boy’s’ messages and doctor’s questions varied the format of the show, as well as Rosa’s use of physicality; I learnt a lot about stamina from watching ‘Madame Ovary’! Throughout the performance, I couldn’t help thinking how relatable Rosa was. Louis Theroux documentaries, failed yoga challenges and questionable dating profiles are all such regular parts of many twenty-something’s lives and in times of uncertainty can bring such comfort. A key part of ‘Madame Ovary’ is the value of really good friends. When Rosa was at her worst, she had the support of her family and friends, but also that of strangers who displayed small acts of kindness when she needed it the most. Bracing the C-word with humour, honesty and integrity is no mean feat and I think ‘Madame Ovary’ is a story you need to watch.
This WildChild Production of ‘Madame Ovary’ has tickets available for VAULT Festival in London, running from 18th-24th February.