Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the restless years following World War Two, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is the story of Blanche DuBois, a fragile and neurotic woman on a ...
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Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the restless years following World War Two, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is the story of Blanche DuBois, a fragile and neurotic woman on a desperate prowl for someplace in the world to call her own. After being exiled from her hometown of Laurel, Mississippi for seducing a seventeen-year-old boy at the school where she taught English, Blanche explains her unexpected appearance on Stanley and Stella's (Blanche's sister) doorstep as nervous exhaustion. This, she claims, is the result of a series of financial calamities which have recently claimed the family plantation, Belle Reve. Suspicious, Stanley points out that "under Louisiana's Napoleonic code what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband." Stanley, a sinewy and brutish man, is as territorial as a panther. He tells Blanche he doesn't like to be swindled and demands to see the bill of sale. This encounter defines Stanley and Blanche's relationship. They are opposing camps and Stella is...Written by
Mark Fleetwood <email@example.com>
"I've always depended on the kindness of strangers"
There were three primary reasons for seeing 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. One was the play itself, Tennessee Williams is one of the all-time great playwrights and 'A Streetcar Named Desire' is among his best work with some of his most intelligent and sizzling writing and two of his most memorable characters. Two was for wanting to see how it fared against the 1951 film, which is to me a masterpiece with some of the best work of both Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando. The third was for Gillian Anderson, have always liked her since watching her in 'Bleak House'.
2014's 'A Streetcar Named Desire' was a truly captivating experience and comparing it to the film, consider it every bit as much as a masterpiece. May slightly prefer Leigh and Brando (am aware that it is an unfair comparison but an inevitable one), but it is largely down to being more familiar with them perhaps seeing as this production was relatively recent. Do find this a little more daring, not that the film wasn't as it actually was back then, with nothing now to restrict the full impact so what was cut or not as prevalent before is here. Comparisons aside, this 'A Streetcar Named Desire' is quite simply quintessential theatre.
Really liked the simple elegance yet claustrophobic intimacy of the set and the camera work also enhances that intimacy. The costumes have the right amount of elegance and grit and while the lighting lacks the atmosphere of that of the film it is still very effective.
Williams' dialogue has wit, tension, darkness and emotion. This production brings all of that out, the wit is laugh out loud funny, the tension scorches and the emotion is genuinely poignant (one of the primary examples of the latter being the line in the review summary, which really stuck with me after watching). The story is never less than compelling and the chemistry between the actors is never stiff or cold. The direction never allows the production or the drama to drag, and especially successful is the chemistry between Blanche and Stanley, the sexual tension absolutely sizzles (more so than a lot of productions in recent years for anything, something that some audience members would not have expected if unfamiliar with the play) without being too overdone or over-hearted.
Both lead roles are very challenging, with their complexity and also their "neurotic" nature, both Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster are more than up to the task. The characterisation of the play is full of depth and complexity, and the whole cast and especially Anderson and Foster bring all of that out. Anderson gives a performance of great confidence but also affecting vulnerability, with her body language telling such a lot. Foster's performance is not subtle, but that's not a bad thing as Stanley's role is not subtle in any shape or form, his intensity burns incredibly powerfully.
Vanessa Kirby really shines in her dynamic between Anderson and Foster, which can't have been easy and her performance gives no signs of being over-shadowed in her own right.
In conclusion, fantastic. If you have not seen either the film or this production, or even both, do so. Just prepare yourself for a lot of sexual tension. 10/10
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