I found my way to the Olivier Theatre on Wednesday night to see Tennessee Williams’s “The Rose Tattoo”. I didn’t know what to expect. I had only vaguely heard of the 1955 film with Burt Lancaster, but didn’t know what it was about. Turns out, it’s about an Italian-American family living in Louisiana.
Their lives are disrupted when Serafina’s husband Rosario Delle Rose is killed while driving a banana truck/dope. Serafina (Zoë Wanamaker) loses their recently conceived child, basically retires from life around her, worships her husband’s ashes that she’s placed under the Virgin Mary. She expects her 15-year-old daughter Rosa (Susannah Fielding) to do the same; stay in the house, grieve and stay away from men.
Rosa, however, has other plans with a certain hunky sailor Jack (Andrew Langtree). Suddenly, when Serafina’s life is about to fall to pieces, another truck driver, Alvaro Mangiacavallo (Darrell D’Silva), shows up.
The first half had me shifting uncomfortably in my chair from some… varying Sicilian accents. I’m pretty sure my Italian friend would have thrown a tantrum, but it can’t be easy being British and pretending to be Sicilian with a slight Americanised accent to boot. Besides, up in the roof where I was sitting I had trouble hearing everything. Zoë Wanamaker did a good job of talking to the entire audience throughout the whole play, but there were some whose voices didn’t reach the upper circle all the time.
The first half, to me, felt somewhat pointless. One of the characters I enjoyed the introduction of was Jack Hunter in his tight, white outfit. Andrew Langtree did a very good job of talking to everyone, in a very convincing N’awleans accent. (That’s New Orleans, by the way). I know someone that grew up in N.O. and to me it was spot-on. Though it has to be said that the highlight for me was when banana-truck-diver Alvaro Mangiacavallo entered the stage – with what actually sounded like an authentic Sicilian accent and some self-irony. Like how he was conceived – by “the village idiot” – made me laugh. Darrell D’Silva, to me, probably had the best stage-presence of everyone.
There’s nothing getting away from the fact that the National Theatre is the most charmless theatre I’ve ever been to in London. It’s a cold brick box with stairs. Modern, they call it. Impersonal, I call it. The Olivier Theatre is an auditorium, not unlike those you have business conferences in. It’s colder than a bad day in February. Maybe it was the surroundings, or maybe it was the play itself, but the whole experience left me feeling rather cold and indifferent.
It wasn’t because of the acting, because that was overall very good, but the play itself did nothing for me. (I’m aware that I’m probably swearing in church by criticising a Tennessee Williams play.) The only things I noticed with the acting that needs a bit of work was the voice-projection to the upper tier and some interesting accents, but other than that it was all very good. I am – however – expecting that these minor glitches will be sorted out before opening night on 29th March. I’m also sure if you liked the original movie, you’ll like this production.
“The Rose Tattoo” is still in previews at the Olivier Theatre – National Theatre and will be on until 23rd June.
- Starperformance coming soon.