A rose by any other name

A rose is a rose is a rose. Photograph courtesy

THE UNQUESTIONABLY JOY that mixes a Tennessee Williams classic with a touch of Italian local colour and immerses it into Afrikaans is the complex deliciousness that you can anticipate in this week’s radio drama on Radio Sonder Grense. Drawing from the radio station’s archives and broadcasting at 8pm on Thursday 19 November, it’s a must hear on all accounts.

With the fabulous Anna-Mart van der Merwe in the role of passionate and supremely emotional Serafina de la Rosa, the work is an essay on immigrant culture, superstition and innocence, love and scandal and features many a breakable object tossed against the wall in the extremes of stereotypical Italian passion. But in van der Merwe’s hands, the character never oversteps her boundaries of feasibility, and remains a three-dimensional (if embarrassing) woman. More than that, the work is translated so beautifully that you do not lose the Italian nuances, even though the language is Afrikaans.

Nothing, other than Serafina’s larger than life perspectives on love, the mystery of a rose-shaped tattoo and the plight of the soul, to say nothing of her daughter’s virginity, feels forced in this work of considerable dramatic skill. The piece is at once sophisticated and easy to listen to. Crafted like a Greek tragedy, it has the wonderful chorus of neighbourhood gossips giving it spice and shrieks of hilarity, embarrassment or shock, as the script twists and turns in their hands.

Ultimately, this is a noble work, attesting with wisdom and charm to the layering of text involved in a translation of this nature. It is Tennessee Williams under an Afrikaans scope, and the texture is simply gorgeous. It’s the kind of work you want to listen to again and again, because of its levels of sarcasm and earnestness, a tale that slips between the cracks of naivete and romance and yields something that attests unequivocally to the value of this radio station in our society.

  • Liefde is ‘n Roos is written by Tennessee Williams and translated from The Rose Tattoo into Afrikaans by Andries Cornelius. Directed by Margot Luyt, and featuring technical input by Alan Rabie, it is performed by Ivan Abrahams, Stian Bam, Hannah Borthwick, Lulu Botha, Joanie Combrink, Brendan Daniels, Martelize Kolver, Marlo Minnaar, Frieda van den Heever, Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Deirdre Wolhuter. It broadcasts on RSG on 19 November at 8pm, will be rebroadcast on 23 November at 1am in Radio Sonder Grense’s Deurnag programme, and is also available on podcast.

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