September 16, 2014
Broadcast live from the Young Vic Theatre, London
“Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Benedict Andrews
Cast: Gillian Anderson, Clare Burt, Lachele Carl, Branwell Donaghey, Otto Farrant, Ben Foster, Nicholas Gecks, Troy Glasgow, Stephanie Jacob, Corey Johnson, Vanessa Kirby, Claire Prempeh
Summary: Blanche DuBois is a fading, though still attractive Southern belle who clings to high-toned Southern customs of decorum. Her pretensions to virtue and culture thinly mask her alcoholism and delusions of grandeur. Blanche arrives at the apartment of her sister, Stella Kowalski, in New Orleans; one of the streetcars she takes to get there is named “Desire.” Blanche’s arrival upsets her sister and brother-in-law Stanley’s relationship dynamics and system of mutual dependence. Blanche and Stanley are on a collision course, and Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s would-be suitor, Harold “Mitch” Mitchell, inadvertently joins Stanley in further destroying Blanche. Stanley discovers Blanche’s past, and he confronts her with the things that she has been trying to put behind her. When Stanley and Blanche are left alone in the apartment, leading to their final confrontation, it is strongly implied that Stanley rapes Blanche, resulting in her psychotic break. Stanley and a reluctant Stella have her committed to a mental institution.
I’ve been to the Young Vic once before, to see the production of Hamlet, starring Michael Sheen (who is my current favourite Hamlet). The stage and the audience seating were quite different at this production, which is – as we found out at the interval video – a speciality of the Young Vic. This production was set “in the round”, with a stage that steadily revolved throughout the play, giving the audience different views of the stage at all times. This also meant that there was a lot going on all over the stage. It was very cleverly done, so you didn’t get confused even when there were three different things happening at once in one particular scene. I found the set design quite interesting, although I never quite determined which period this production is supposed to be set in. On one hand you have modern furniture and appliances, on the other hand quite 50ies and 60ies clothing. Gillian Anderson’s costumes were all gorgeous – I wouldn’t mind owning one or two of the dresses. And the lovely dressing gown… The scene changes were also cleverly made with music and dramatic lighting effects.
Vanessa Kirby’s Stella Kowalski is torn between her loyalty towards her husband and her sister respectively. Her performance is vulnerable and sweet, sometimes even a bit naive or child-like. Ben Foster’s Stanley Kowalski is rough, often violent, and struts all over the stage like a heavily tattooed peacock. That could easily have been a one dimentional bullish performance in the hands of other actors, but Foster manages to show vulnerability and nuances and thus gives the character depth and a dangerous edge alike. The supporting cast are solid throughout, with Corey Johnson as a very likeable, sweet Mitch. Gillian Anderson gives a bold, gutsy, raw and emotional performance as Blance DuBois. She truly is stellar in this overall wonderful production.
Luckily Emma Freud did not conduct an interval interview this time, so her presence was not as annoying as usual 😉