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Camden News - by SIMON WROE
Published: 5 June 2008
Amy with dad Jack Rosenthal and mum Maureen Lipman at her graduation ceremony 10 years ago
Amy with dad Jack Rosenthal and mum Maureen Lipman at her graduation ceremony 10 years ago
Playwright’s long wait in wings for voice to return after father’s death

Adapting his play gave me back my nerve, says daughter of London’s Burning writer

WHEN Amy Rosenthal penned her early plays, critics hailed her as a promising new voice in British theatre.
But for the past six years the playwright has been silenced by writer’s block and personal tragedy.
Ms Rosenthal, 33 – with her mother, the actress and comedienne Maureen Lipman – focused all her efforts on looking after her father, screenwriter Jack Rosenthal, during his two-year battle with blood cancer myeloma.
After his death in 2004, her only writing was for or about her father. She finished his autobiography with her mother, before adapting it for radio.
She then tried acupuncture, hypnotherapy, even psychics in an attempt to find her inspiration again. Nothing worked.
Four years on and Ms Rosenthal is due to return to the stage with great fanfare. Her fourth play, On The Rocks, about the social circle of the writer DH Lawrence, runs throughout July at Hampstead Theatre in Swiss Cottage with a stellar cast, including Tracy Ann Obermann and Ed Stoppard, son of playwright Tom Stoppard.
And she thanks her father, whose credits included London’s Burning, The Lovers and Coronation Street, for breaking her writer’s block.
“When my dad was ill I wasn’t writing,” she said. “I was visiting him at home all the time. We had absolutely no idea what the nature of this illness was, what the right decisions were to take or what we should be doing.”
It was while she was adapting his unperformed screenplay, Tortoise, for radio that she felt her voice return.
“I’ve learned a lot about life in between my last two plays but adapting my father’s play gave me back my nerve. I felt like I was working with him in a strange way,” she added.
Ms Rosenthal, who lives in Belsize Park, and her mother were supported throughout their ordeal by the cancer charity Myeloma UK.
“You only know what the doctors tell you and half the time I don’t think they really know,” she said. “It’s not that they’re not experts but cancer is ahead of the game. It’s changing and mutating shape all the time.
“My dad had a terrible, terrible experience but you didn’t lose the man. As ordinary people you just don’t know what to do. The charity does a tremendous amount to help people deal with it.”
At the time, Amy did not have a way of helping the charity, but she vowed to repay its kindness when she began writing again. An On The Rocks gala night on July 3 will raise funds for the charity.
She is keen to point out the play has no connections with her father or myeloma, adding: “I had the idea years before cancer would ever enter our lives. I’ve always wanted to tell the story – I’ve been thinking about it since I was 18. Finding a way to tell it has taken a very long time.”
Since she finished her MA in playwriting at Birmingham University 10 years ago, Ms Rosenthal has made six trips to Zennor, in Cornwall, where Lawrence stayed with his wife Frieda in 1916 after publication of his novel The Rainbow had been suppressed.
The play, a comedy, is about the stormy three months spent there with their friends: the critic John Middleton Murray and the writer Katherine Mansfield.
She said: “It was a fairly fraught marriage but a very passionate one. The play has lots of passion and violence and simmering. Both my parents have been incredibly supportive. My mother has suffered with me when I was struggling. The one thing I’ve learnt through the years of not writing, and how desperately unhappy that made me, is that you have to enjoy it. The note of optimism that the play ends on is my own.”

• The On The Rocks gala night to raise funds for Myeloma UK will be staged at Hampstead Theatre at 7.30pm on July 3. Tickets cost £40, including pre-show and interval drinks and canapés, and a post-show discussion.

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