Rosa Hesmondhalgh bravely and honestly tells her story with being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at the age of just 23 in her solo show Madame Ovary. But it’s not all doom and gloom as she brings light to the story with her frank sarcasm, witty humour and sincere personality.
Rosa is a natural storyteller as she is entirely compelling as she captures the audience with every word. Her writing is a raw, painful and a brutally honest account of her experience from turning up at A&E with a bloated stomach, aching to get away quickly to go on her second date with ‘Tinder Boy’. To lying in a hospital bed, scared that her life is about to end as it was only just beginning. She jokes about abusing her body with alcohol and lack of exercise.
Opening the show we meet Rosa and she tells us about her life. Expect the usual things from going on bad dates to struggling to excel in your career and millennial first-world problems. She becomes a friend to the audience, as we get to know the warmth of her personality.
Rosa combines projection into her performance as we see her swipe right on tinder, the frantic google searches of her symptoms and conversations with her loved ones.
I lost my best friend to cancer when he was just 21. Spending weeks that turned into months and then over a year in hospital, I’d gone on that journey with him. Rosa displays everything from the sights and sounds of the hospital to the feeling of fear, confusion, anger, hope and disbelief. Watching my best friend go through it, this show really resonated with me as I felt I was watching that all over again. With everything from the beep of the chemo machine, to the medical lingo and clinical surroundings.
You find yourself laughing through your tears as Rosa interjects huge amounts of humour within the show. When she hears her dad crying down the phone just hours after her diagnosis, she puts on a brave face and tells him “don’t worry dad, it’s going to be okay.” This courageous reassurance is something I’ve seen in real life so many times.
What comforted me the most was Rosa’s adoration for her family and friends that turned up to the hospital with smiles on their faces to distract her the best they could. Through teary eyes, Rosa tells the audience how in awe she is of the people she loves the most.
Ending with a beautiful compilation video made by her friends that are wishing her well, Rosa explains how through it all the one thing she found was love. “There is no tumour on my soul,” she says. Watching her break down during her diagnosis through to building herself up through remission is incredibly inspiring.
Your heart aches for Rosa, I left this show feeling emotionally exhausted but entirely empowered to celebrate life and be consistently grateful even when it throws you these curveballs. Madame Ovary is a life-affirming show about the importance of love when your world comes crashing down.
Madame Ovary is on at Edinburgh Fringe at Pleasance Dome at 12:10pm.