The potential of White Rose is not realised for Rowena McIntosh and Hazel Robertson
White Rose is the story of women combat pilots during World War Two, particularly that of Lily Litvak. During wars, of course, gender roles are often challenged as more people are needed to do “men’s work”, so in the Soviet Air Force, a number of women became pilots and fighters.
What could be an interesting exploration of an unusual time, however, is reduced to a triangular love story. Rowena and Hazel found that putting women centre stage in a play about combat meant that the play became less about war and more about relationships. As they write in their review:
The portrayal of women inhabiting a man’s world is at the forefront of White Rose. However, it is dealt with in a flimsy and unsubtle way. The play never really digs behind Lily’s cold exterior to find out what her gendered experiences are like. Instead, most of the play is taken up by the love story between Lily and Alexsi, which like Lily is passionless and far too functional. With a play set in one of the bloodiest settings of WW2, the tepid love story seems a little weak. The horrors and brutality of the war are only alluded to briefly: Lily claiming that Alexsi needs female pilots in his squadron due to the high death rates, the fleeting tribute to Alexsi’s lost pilot comrade and the unpersuasive mentions of Lily’s Jewish grandfather.
The photo from the production is by Graham Ridell and is used with permission.