27th July 2020
The National Theatre have been streaming one of their past productions online for free every week since theatres around the world were forced to shut their doors. This week’s production is the Young Vic‘s production of Tennessee Williams’ classic play ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. The play centres around Blanche who has lost everything she has so is forced to move in with her sister Stella and Stella’s violent husband Stanley. The play follows Blanche’s downward spiral into darkness.
This production was directed by Benedict Andrews. Andrews brings the play into the modern day and this choice works remarkably well. The show really speaks into the current climate of mental health struggles and feels like it could have been written for a modern audience. Magda Willi‘s design brings a great sense of realism to the production but I can imagine it was also somewhat frustrating for audience members there in person as the set constantly rotates. Watching the production filmed definitely offers a better consistent view of the performances. Jon Clark lights the production brilliantly whilst Paul Arditti‘s sound design alongside Alex Baranowski‘s original music helps to make the play feel quite haunting at times. Bret Yount also deserves credit for his fight direction as the moments of violence were incredibly believable and chilling.
Gillian Anderson leads the cast as Blanche DuBois and she is sublime in the role. She portrays this hugely complex character perfectly and wins the audience over quickly. Her performance, particularly towards the end of the play, is truly heartbreaking. Alongside Anderson, Vanessa Kirby is equally heartbreaking as Stella Kowalski. Kowalski and Anderson have a great on stage rapport and their relationship is very believable. Their closeness makes the ending even more upsetting. Ben Foster rounds out the leading trio as Stanley Kowalski, who is brilliantly terrifying and you really fear what might happen when Stanley and Blanche are left alone together.
Anderson, Kirby and Foster are joined by some exceptional supporting actors. Clare Burt is fantastic, although underused, as Eunice Hubbel. She does a great job to portray Eunice’s relationship with Stella and she really shines in the second half of the play. In addition, Corey Johnson plays Mitch and his performance is brilliant. He is incredibly believable in his relationship with Blanche and this just adds to the tragedy of the play. Otto Farrant gives a standout performance as Young Collector. Despite only being on stage for one scene, his performance is exceptional.
A Streetcar Named Desire is a tremendous production on screen of a brilliantly written classic play, featuring three phenomenal leading performers and it feels completely relevant today despite being written so long ago. The play is very long at over 3 hours in duration but it never feels like it drags or outstays its welcome.
Be sure to watch The Young Vic’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire which be found here. It is available to stream at any time until 7pm UK time on Thursday 28th May 2020. Upcoming National Theatre at Home productions are James Graham’s political play This House and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, starring Tom Hiddleston.
Featured Image Credit: Johan Persson