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Review: Culture clashes in Mafia drama Tarantella, Omnibus

7e579f845121b7a06e33557e3003a886Tarantella is a new play written by Elizabeth Bowe about three generations of a Sicilian family living in a tenement in 1941 New York. The title refers to a traditional dance from Sicily which the daughters of the family have learned and perform on feast days and family gatherings.

The problem for the family is that the younger generation are becoming more and more embedded in culture and society of New York which is at odds with the traditions and way of living the older generations want to cling to. When the Mafia comes knocking things are brought to a head and ghosts from the past are unearthed.

There are elements of West Side Story - the daughter who falls for the blond Yankie whom her father bans her from seeing - gangster films and something almost akin to a Greek Tragedy in what happened to the family back in Sicily. And that is in part the plays problem none of the elements really gets proper traction.

The father isn't the formidable head of the family he probably should if we are to believe his children are scared of disobeying him - or getting caught. It makes the scenes where the family gathers to eat and talk rather flat and lacking in tension.

It is also a long play - ambitiously long for a fringe production at 2 hours and 45 minutes plus interval - and it doesn't pack enough punch to sustain the running time. Even some of the most experienced directors, actors and writers struggle to keep momentum and engagement in plays of this length.

There are some nice scenes, particularly those between the two teenage daughters plotting to go to the dance without their parents' knowledge and the dance hall sequences are well done but overall Tarantella feels a little languid.

It runs at the Omnibus in Clapham until Sep 11 and I'm giving it three stars.