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July 28, 2007

The Rose Tattoo at the National Theatre

Originally sought as a back-up plan to failure to aquire tickets to the Globe that same evening, Tenesse Williams' The Rose Tattoo turned out to be anything but second rate.

Ushered in eight minutes late, precariously navigating to our seats in the dark (stacked seemingly vertically in the upper balcony), so began our attempts to quickly contextualise these characters - their backdrop, without the fact-sheet adventage of having even a passing familiarity with the play.

My discovery that 'My Family' actress Zoe Wannamaker is cast in the lead role of Serafina Delle Rose  threatened to blight my anticipation of the play with unpleasantly haughty reservations. However, she truly carried the play with a passionate performance, as voluptuous yet dignified as you'd want a Sicilian widow to be, a woman far from young and trim, sexy in her sweat-stained nightgown, proudly proclaiming her faithfulness to her deceased husband - her inability to move out of this state (the surrounding characters continually implore her to dress herself) speaking of a self-imposed chastity.

The other noteworthy aspect of the production was undoubtedly the set design, where a small, 4-bedroom working class house, dressed in a homely, southern chintz, is set atop a revolving platform. The genius of this is that the chaos of the first act is punctuated by a gaggle of small children and a live goat that run around the set. By contrast, the second act is a darker affair, relying far less on staging to make way for exploration in depth of the central characters. I felt cheerfully smug in the knowledge that our bargain £10 seats probably afforded us the best view of this open-plan staging.

The heavy themes of family, faith, spousal bereavement, adultery and the manipulation of sexuality were interpreted in an essentially warm, often comic manner that did not cost the play any of its' itensity. 


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