14 August 2014

A Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic


A Streetcar Named Desire came to the Young Vic heavy with the weight of expectations. It lived up to some but not all. Those expectations came from the reputation of the playwright Tennessee Williams, lead actress Gillian Anderson and director Benedict Andrews, the later returning to the scene of his triumph with Three Sisters.

This was a must-get ticket and the whole run sold out quickly. I was on the ball the morning the tickets went on sale and managed to get second row seats on a preferred date. The day worked out well too. I arranged to work in London that day and was able to get to the Young Vic early enough to bag a seat and table in the upstairs bar and to get something decent to eat for a change.

As soon as I sat down the set was a worry. We were sat in the round and in the middle of the stage was a solid cage, making three rooms of a house, and the uprights restricted the view.

The solution to this was bizarre and ineffective. The stage rotated. Yes the annoying uprights swung out of the way (and then briefly back in again) but the whole thing was unnatural and distracting.

To prove the point, at several times when the main actors were seated round the kitchen table talking one of them turned their back on the others to speak to the audience through the invisible wall. I expected better than this.

What was better, much better, was the play and the acting.

A Streetcar Named Desire was a slow simmering drama that chartered the fanciful world of Blanche DuBois, played by Gillian Anderson, as she slipped slowly from reality over three enthralling hours.

The production kept the temperature steady and warm and my just have kept it a little too steady. The rape scene passed almost unnoticed.

Gillian Anderson has got lots of praise for her performance and it was deserved. The other two main actors, playing her sister and brother-in-law, were good too but the story was all about Blanche DuBois and the performance was all about Gillian Anderson.

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