Friday, March 30, 2007

Did London Critics Offer Bouquets For Rose Tattoo Revival?

Did London Critics Offer Bouquets For Rose Tattoo Revival?

Last evening, the National Theatre's revival of Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo opened in the company's Olivier Theatre. With the late Steven Pimlott and Nicholas Hytner sharing direction credits (Pimlott died one week into rehearsals) and the estimable Zoë Wanamaker leading the cast, critics were mixed. However, they agreed that Wanamaker was superb and admired Hytner for soldiering on.

The Times' Sam Marlowe offers what is arguably the most favorable review: "The production makes the play’s intensely feminine world teem with colour without overcrowding the central drama....It all has a seductive dreaminess, and Zoë Wanamaker’s Serafina is an irresistible creature of sensuality....There’s a madness to this writing, but it is the joyous madness of love and of life. Hytner and Pimlott are true to the wildness of Williams’s spirit, and make no attempt to tame its excesses. That might make the whole seem a little crazy; it’s also what makes it a creation of ripe, shameless, full-blown beauty."

Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph is mostly positive: "Nicholas Hytner, filling the shoes of a longtime friend (Pimlott died one week into rehearsals), could have paid no greater tribute than the production that he has brought, apparently untroubled and wholly delightful, to the stage....It's a mark of just how great an actress Zoe Wanamaker is that she negotiates the play's uneasy mixture of laughter and tears, absurdity and poignancy without showing the slightest strain - the force-field of her personality holds the contradictions in place."

Proclaiming this a "buoyantly comic celebration of life and its inexhaustible capacity for breaking free from the past," The Independent's Paul Taylor provides a review that is ultimately upbeat: "The idea of the play seems like it might be more enjoyable than the actual experience of watching it. English actors don't find it easy to plug into hot Latin passion, and the portrayal of the community has a rather deliberate and unspontaneous feel here, with the half-hearted gaggle of kids and chorus of squabbling women....True, this play that is rampant with rose-imagery peers at the world through rose-tinted spectacles, but by the end it, it would be a hard heart that failed to surrender to its generous adult fairytale vision."

Claiming that The Rose Tattoo "gives the illusion the play is better than it is" in his three-out-of-five star review, The Guardian's Michael Billington manages praise for Wanamaker: "[W]hile one applauds the play's affirmation of life and Williams's sly humour, the exposition is lazy, the rose-symbolism wildly excessive and the parallels between Serafina and her daughter, who finally conquers an improbably virginal sailor, over-contrived. Never mind. Williams created a great character in Serafina that produces from Zoe Wanamaker the performance of her career."

Not so impressed was the Evening Standard's Nicholas de Jongh, who gave the production two out of five stars: "The idea has been to treat Williams's overblown romanticism with reverent faithfulness. It does not work. An air of preposterousness and contrivance clouds the dusky, cicada-laden scene which is dominated by Mark Thompson's revolving bungalow set....Other irritations accumulate. Devil-substitutes in the shape of Rosalind Knight's long-haired, gym-shoed Strega and a real-life goat keep intruding together with gawping village women and kids. Too much of the dialogue, usually Williams's strong, poetic suit, sounds like eerie premonitions of lyrics for a Lloyd Webber musical."

With such a mixed lot, I turn to the West End Whingers for the last word on the production -- let's just put it this way, the production got their goat.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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