Friday, March 30, 2007
By Any Other Name
French Claire and I were at the National last night for their new production of The Rose Tattoo. It’s very upbeat for Tennessee Williams, love prevails (kind of) and at least no one gets carted off to the loony bin. Zoe Wanamaker plays Serafina delle Rose, a Sicilian widow, still deep in mourning after the death of her husband three years ago. We know this because her head lolls a lot when she speaks and she wears a stained and frayed nightie for a lot of the time. Wanamaker gets to do some big, ‘accenty’ acting, throwing up her arms in despair and spitting at the local crone for giving her the evil eye, that kind of thing.
This all started to get a bit much by the interval and, not knowing the play, I was wondering where on earth it would go. But instead of a descent into madness and alcoholism or some combination of the two (for Serafina not me, though I was on the red wine), a bumbling truck driving Sicilian stumbles into her tin-roofed shack and things start to look up. Though the play definitely overstays its welcome at nearly three hours, I did start to warm to it during these later scenes, I laughed a good deal, and even Wanamaker’s performance and the over-egged rose symbolism grated less. I suspect it helps that we went on press night; the original director of this production, Stephen Pimlott, died midway through rehearsals and there seemed to be a lot of determined good feeling in the audience.
And like these chaps here I too found myself unduly preoccupied by the onstage presence of a real goat – does it have an understudy? What if it gets stage fright? What if it spots a tempting Waitrose bag in the front row and decides it doesn’t want to do a nice circuit of the Olivier with the cute stage school children, but fancies an early supper? Plus, ignorant urban type that I am, I didn’t know that goats were fluffy. I think I kinda want one.