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Tattoo - Leaving A Permanent Mark

Author: Darryn King
Monday, 9 March 2009

Griffin Theatre Company is doing its part for our global culture, bringing a whole season of plays from around the world to Sydney audiences in 2009. The first is Tattoo by German playwright Dea Loher, a dark fairytale where not everything is sweet behind the walls of the village’s gingerbread house. 3D’s Darryn King spoke to director Rochelle Whyte.

Firstly, how important is it to have international voices on Sydney stages-

Naturally I think it’s very important. It’s important that we contextualise what our own writers are writing about as part of a new international wave of writing. And I think that a good story is a good story regardless of its origins. If it’s a story that hits some home truths, that’s going to transcend any cultural or religious boundaries.

So why Tattoo to open this season of international plays-
It’s an incredibly intriguing play. What people will mostly relate to is the exploration of the dark and the light of the human soul – and doing it in a safe environment, in the theatre, a safe space where we can explore it together.

How does Tattoo borrow from the Grimms’ Fairy Tales-

The play alludes very heavily to fairy tales, and there is a sense of this fairy tale erupting constantly out of these people’s everyday lives. That’s what makes it intensely theatrical and a joy to be working on. It borrows thematically from Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel – all those stories that we all know. It finds the essence of what those stories are about, embraces those archetypes and continues that tradition. It is absolutely a modern fairy tale for our time.
It’s also written in verse, so its poetic structure means that the language is quite still. There’s not much room for much chatter. The characters don’t beat around the bush or any of that.

There’s some pretty dark events in Tattoo – but how careful should we be in mentioning words like ‘incest’ and ‘child abuse’-

Often things like child abuse and incest or rape are outcomes of other things. It’s those other things that we’re interested in: a family tyrant trying to maintain power over his family. I think when you say the word ‘incest’ there’s a whole gamut of emotions and impressions and opinions that people have that could be misleading, and you mention something like child abuse and people think it’s going to be a dark and depressing play, but it’s not. There’s a lot of humour – of a skewed variety, but it’s there. And it’s a celebration of hope in spite of these things. It would be a mistake to brand it as one thing.

Do you think it could still be a very confronting play for some audience members-
It always depends on people’s interpretations, regardless of whether it’s a comedy or a tragedy. Undeniably it’s a very powerful piece of work, but that’s okay – a little bit of that is good for you, I reckon.

How difficult is it, as theatremakers, to sensitively render this story-
When dealing with these kinds of characters, what’s important is to lay judgement aside. If you’re judging them all the time it’s very difficult to find positive reasons as to why they do what they do. I think most people choose what they think are positive actions – that is a truth of human nature, and we have to embrace the material in the same way.

WHAT: Tattoo
WHERE: SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross
WHEN: Until Saturday 28 March
MORE: griffintheatre.com.au

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