The Rose Tattoo – The Complex – Review

The Rose Tattoo – The Complex – Review

The Rose Tattoo by Tennessee Williams in a new translation by Vanessa Fielding and Catherine Joyce
Until May 20 at The Complex, Dublin 7

When we meet Sarah (Denise McCormack), she is waiting for her beloved husband to return home. Her daughter is playing close by, collecting ladybirds in a field. Sarah idolises her husband and nothing makes her happier than his presence. He works as a truck driver delivering bananas but he also has a wild side. Later that night, some of her neighbours arrive at her door, along with the local parish priest (David O’Meara), with some bad news. Sarah’s world is about to collapse as she learns of the death of her husband.

This is a new ‘translation’ of the play by Vanessa Fielding and Catherine Joyce, which has moved the events to an Irish halting site from its original location in Mississippi. The main character, Serafina Delle Rose, an Italian-American, is now an Irish traveller called Sarah. They have also moved the time period from 1950 to the present day. The concept works surprisingly well, although there are aspects of the piece that made more sense 70 years ago than today, including the morals and devotion to religion required in the story. There are some touches that ground the play in the present day with mentions of companies like Paddy Power and Keelings.

The Rose Tattoo was written by Tennessee Williams in 1950. It will always have a special place in Irish Theatre history, due to the production staged in Dublin’s Pike Theatre in 1957. After a short run of the play, the production was stopped and its director Alan Simpson was arrested for producing “a lewd entertainment” as the cast mimed dropping a condom onto the floor. It seems bizarre from a modern perspective and shows just how much Ireland has changed over the last 70 years.

The piece is staged in the main space of the Complex, with tiered seating on three sides of the stage, the production makes good use of the space, with the cast moving between and even behind the seated areas to perform, with voices echoing up from all directions. The theatre space in the Complex is a converted warehouse, and its high ceiling can make it difficult to hear the actors at some points. An impressive addition to the piece was the performance of Paddy Keenan, who remains at the side of the stage throughout the performance adding musical interludes at times.

The play requires a large cast and while there are some well-known names on stage, there are also a number of lesser-known actors with much less experience. The mixed ability of the cast does show at times, but Denise McCormack carries the production onwards. After the interval, her scenes with Lloyd Cooney are intense and that’s when the production really comes to life. It’s an interesting and worthwhile reworking of the classic that will bring the play to a new generation.

CAST: Denise McCormack / Lloyd Cooney / Shauna Higgins / Aisling O’Mara/ Bairbre Ní Chaoimh / David O’Meara / Christine Collins / James Collins / Paddy Keenan (Uileann Pipes)

Translated by Vanessa Fielding and Catherine Joyce
Directed by Vanessa Fielding
Set & Costume Design: Sabine D’Argent
Lighting Design: Conleth White

Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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