Vault Festival: Madame Ovary


Studio at the Vaults, Leake Street Tunnels, Waterloo.


18-23 February, then on tour in March to Cardiff, Oxford and Manchester.


Written and performed by Rosa Hesmondhalgh. Directed by Adam Small. Produced by Wildchild Productions.


A “breathtakingly sad and intensely funny” true story of Rosa’s ovarian cancer treatment … a life-affirming show about the importance of love when your world comes crashing down.

Rosa Hesmondhalgh. Image by Chantal Guevara.
Rosa Hesmondhalgh. Image by Chantal Guevara.


Rosa Hesmondhalgh’s one-woman show about her journey with ovarian cancer from diagnosis to remission at the age of 23 has received accolades galore since its debut at last year’s Edinburgh Festival.

Starting life as a blog, also called Madame Ovary, it chronicles situations and feelings with humour, honesty and hope, and is also both celebratory and educational. Rosa starts off by sharing three new resolutions on a screen: “get my priorities right”, “take better care of my body”, “make some really great art”.

We are sharing her own personal story of determination, loneliness, friendship and love. Other characters come and go. Health professionals, family, friends, kind strangers including “the patient patient” Rai and Bridget, who provides a literal shoulder to cry on.

Rosa Hesmondhalgh. Image by Chantal Guevara.
Rosa Hesmondhalgh. Image by Chantal Guevara.

It’s a story of survival, of remission (not recovery), of “being surrounded by love”. With just one projector and screen to show text, pictures and video, including a set of Google searches around symptoms which can mimic cancer, our focus is firmly on Rosa the performer, who is funny, frank and fearless in opening up her own story.

Madame Ovary is something rather special, a mix of the stand-up comic and the confessional, while, as stated in the script – part of this year’s selection of plays available in book form – “kicking cancer’s arse”. It contains some beautifully poetic language within its musing on the nature of fear and friendship, of art and artifice.

Judgement – Wow, Meow, or Furred Brow?

It’s a Wow for Madame Ovary. It tugs at the heart and also sends ripples of laughter round the room. An assured debut.

Image by Chantal Guevara.

I want to dedicate this review to WeeGee, who also blogged about her cancer journey but who passed away 13 months after diagnosis, aged forty.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see Madame Ovary.