Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Review - A Streetcar Named Desire


AFTER sitting in the Young Vic for three and a half hours watching A Streetcar Named Desire I was exhausted.
Tenessee Williams's powerful play set in America's Deep South is long, intense and builds to a shattering and dynamic climax and Benedict Andrews' thrilling production doesn't allow the audience any room to sit back and let it wash over them.
From the explosive storyline, and constantly revolving set, which looks like a cage, to the sporadic blasts of very loud music from Jimi Hendrix to Chris Isaak, this is one production guaranteed to keep you on your toes.
But it is the acting which really sucks you in. Gillian Anderson, fresh from appearing in ITV's The Fall is simply superb as Blanche Du Bois, the damaged Southern Belle who comes to stay with her sister Stella and Stella's coarse and brutish husband Stanley, in New Orleans when she loses her home in Mississippi.
She first sashays confidently and seductively onto the stage wearing sunglasses and an elegant outfit trailing her enormous suitcase behind her. There is no hint of what has happened to bring her to New Orleans.
But as the play progresses, terrible truths are exposed, Blanche's lies catch up with her and her hold on reality starts to fall apart. By the end she is broken and humiliated as she is carted off to the asylum. It is a testament to Anderson's acting that it is almost too terrible to watch.
Indeed, Anderson captures Blanche's character perfectly - her mix of fragility, loneliness, neediness, and flashes of anger in her outbursts and her delusions of grandeur.
She is well supported by an impressive cast. Ben Foster as Stanley, is a burley, sweaty, tattooed man who is constantly simmering, lashing out at the slightest provocation.
Vanessa Kirby is great as Stella who finds herself torn between loyalty to her husband and to her sister. Her torment at the end is heartbreaking.
The only slight niggle was that the revolving set made it difficult at times to see the actors or hear what they were saying.
However, that aside, this was a fantastic production and although the entire cast was superb, the night belongs to Anderson.
If you can get a ticket do. For those who can't, the National Theatre will broadcast it live from the Young Vic to more than 550 UK cinemas and many more worldwide on September 16 as part of National Theatre Live. Visit www.ntlive.com to find a venue.

A Streetcar Named Desire is on at the Young Vic until September 19. Visit www.youngvic.org or call the box office 020 7922 2922 for tickets.

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