NT Live Review: A Streetcar Named Desire ★★★★

A Streetcar named Desire
National Theatre Live
Tuesday 16th September 2014

'A Streetcar named Desire', The Young Vic's adaptation of the Tennessee Williams' classic, is the first of the theatre's productions to air as part of The National Theatre Live scheme. It starts with Stella and Stanley Kowalski leaving to go to a party, shortly before Blanche Duobois, Stella's sister arrive at Stella's apartment in New Orleans and makes herself welcome, with the help of Eunice close by.

Stella soon comes back to greet Blanche's arrival, and Blanche tells Stella how they have lost their ancestral home Belle Reve, after the remaining relatives of theirs have now passed away. Soon after Stanley, Stella's husband, enters and once again greets Blanche kindly. Things soon spiral for Blanche though as we see an aggressive side to Stanley, which soon builds slowly until one night at a poker night, Stanley gives way and throws Stella against the oven, making her cause a nosebleed, and and run out of the flat.

Signs that Blanche is not well is with her heavy drinking, which she tries to conceal from Stella and Stanley, and as the play progresses, so does the realistic, believable betrayal of Gillian Anderson's version of Blanche. The chemistry between Anderson and Ben Foster is electric, and goes down to the perfect casting of these two iconic characters of Blanche and Stanley, whilst Vanessa Kirby's role as Stella will leave you standing on your feet come the climax of the piece.

Finding out about Blanche's past, the reason for the firing of teaching, and being kicked out of a motel, comes at the pinnacle point of the play, and with background music and mood lighting, the play suddenly comes into its element and stays like this throughout the rest of the production. Weeks past in the story, and with Blanche believing that she is off to live with a million are thanks to the prospect from Stanley, a Doctor and Nurse soon arrive to take Blanche to an Insane Asylum, and once initially struggling, Blanche soon leaves with the doctor and nurse.

Magda Willis' set design throughout is simple and realistic, and the fact that the production is set in the round, with an evolving stage, makes the audience really feel alive with the action in front of them, and from the view looking at the production through a cinema screen, its clear a lot of hard work and thought has been put through to give us cinema goers angles and shots that make us see the action so elegantly, and thanks must go to everyone involved, and especially Alex Baranowski, for providing such an intense soundtrack to accompany this beautiful performance.

Overall, The Young Vic's adaptation of this clear crystal classic from Williams' is a gripping and tantalising production that will make you hold your breath with such suspense, and feel such energy from Gillian Anderson's mesmerising performance.


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