Benedict Andrews’ new production of Tennessee Williams’: A Streetcar Named Desire is an emotional roller-coaster from start to finish. At the heart of the play are the disturbing issues of domestic violence and rape. Blanche Dubois, a fading southern bell, arrives at her sister’s home in New Orleans, destitute, in need of help and a place to stay. Her fantasies of superiority and respectability infuriate Stan, Stella’s husband, who gradually exposes the truth of her tragic existence, revealing details of her lurid past so she is left staggering from self-denial to madness.
Andrews has modernised the play by setting it in a contemporary New Orleans, he gives us modern clothes; a shabby apartment of clean lines; and a powerful sound track with cool modern jazz that is periodically disrupted with Hendrix rifts, the Swans avant-garde rock and carefully chosen tracks such as P J Harvey’s “To bring you my love” and Chris Isaak’s perfectly placed “Wicked Game”.
Gillian Anderson gives a memorable performance as Blanche. She brings a hard and savage edge to Blanche’s vulnerable character and the stage is filled with her desperation. The use of the revolving stage is genius, not only does it create a sense of voyeurism for the audience, but from the moment Blanche takes her first swig of bourbon and the apartment starts to rotate, it becomes symbolic – the wheels of destiny turning; the spinning of lies and stories, the dizziness of love and obsession; the disorientation of uncontrolled violence and the slow spiralling path Blanche travels into madness. It is a terrific piece of theatre production.
Some reviews have said that Anderson dominates the play but I do not agree. There is real chemistry between the whole cast, each brings something that makes the play whole. Vanessa Kirby gives a wonderful strength to Stella’s character and Ben Foster makes an excellent Stan, forceful with a brutish intelligence. The rest of the cast are terrific too. This is part of the magic, they spark off each other making it feel real and delivering a spellbinding performance.
A Streetcar Named Desire is currently running at The Young Vic in London until 19th September 2014 www.youngvic.org
The theatre has recognised the demand for tickets is high and they are running a “seat lottery” each day for every performance. To enter you must go to the box office and give your name in person at 5pm, the winners are then announced at 5.30pm for each evening’s performance (1pm and 1.30pm for matinee performances).
Alternatively, A Streetcar Named Desire will be broadcast to over 1,000 cinemas around the world on the 16th and 23rd of September by National Theatre Live: More information can be found at www.ntlive.com.