Go, Lovely Rose, Irish Cultural Centre – Review

Siobhan Gallagher as Rose Fitzgerald / © Michael Brosnan

The 20th century is replete with forgotten female playwrights. While a few of these have been ‘rediscovered’, many of their plays are ‘waiting for their day in the sun’ again. The reappraisal of female authors from Ireland continues to gain momentum, including novelist and playwright Mary Manning. One of her plays regarding a notable matriarch encapsulates the ‘choices’ that even the most privileged of women at the turn of the century faced and what they said goodbye to…

Directed by Gavin McAlinden, Go, Lovely Rose looks back on the life of Rose Fitzpatrick – the mother of President John F Kennedy and his brother Robert. Set in 1907 when Rose was 17-years-old, we meet her when she’s on the cusp of starting at Wellesley College – the most prestigious women’s college in the United States and known for its academic excellence.

Rose Kennedy

Played by Siobhan Gallagher, we see that Rose is intelligent, articulate, with an enquiring mind. Her father John Francis Fitzgerald is mayor of Boston, and as such is an important figure in the Irish community there. However, Rose’s dreams of unfettered learning are put to pasture when the opinion of someone who could impact on her father’s political clout shows disapproval of Rose attending an educational institution run by “Protestants and free-thinkers”…

While still an avowed Catholic, Rose is incensed that she and other young women like her are expected to forego personal ambitions for motherhood to be nothing more than full-time homemakers. The fact that her education is subject to political expediency is another bone of contention.

The animation provided by Paul Donnelion that is played behind Rose complements Gallagher’s performance – not only fleshing out what’s spoken but possessing a playfulness and subtle wit. Also complemetary on the audio-visual front is a montage by Callum Excell. Showing how much Rose was at the heart of the ‘Camelot’ adminstration, the footage reaffirms her importance in history. While she never received any personal recognition during her lifetime (outside of being made a Papal countess), Rose’s ‘legacy’ to paraphrase Banquo’s fate in Macbeth was, ‘Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none’.

Rose Kennedy with JFK

Jackie Kennedy once remarked about her mother-in-law: “I don’t think Jack’s mother is too bright – and she would rather say a rosary than read a book.” Had Jackie known about Rose during her formative years, she would perhaps have a better measure of the woman.

© Michael Davis 2019

Go, Lovely Rose ran at the London Irish Cultural Centre (5 Black’s Rd, Hammersmith, London W6 9DT) on 22nd March.

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