National Theatre Live: A Streetcar Named Desire (2014) Review
Blanche DeBois – Gillian Anderson
Stanley Kowalski – Ben Foster
Stella Kowalski – Vanessa Kirby
Harold Mitchell – Corey Johnson
Steve Hubbell – Branwell Donaghey
Eunice Hubbell – Clare Burt
A Streetcar Named Desire is a play by Tennessee Williams, set in New Orleans when Blanche DeBois turns up at her sister Stella’s place in a very fragile state. This state is due to get worse and her drinking problem becomes more evident as we wonder what exactly has happened in her past to get her into such an awful state. She clashes instantly with her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski as he just sees her as a threat to drive himself and Stella apart.
I managed to catch this at a cinema screening and so pleased that I did, I read the play at A-Level (many years ago now) and have seen the film a few times and thought it would be brilliant to see it in its proper format of a play. With living so far from London the National Theatre Live cinema events really are such a great idea so we can all enjoy the performances and new productions of shows and plays.
The two lead roles are taken up by well-known actors in Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster, but you have never seen them like this before. They are in a play which you must give your all and the way the stage (more about that later) is set up no escaping whatsoever. The passion and emotions they show on the stage really is incredible. The same goes for Vanessa Kirby such incredible performances from all three of them, I cannot imagine how it must have felt actually being in the theatre to watch it all unfold.
It was a brand new production of the legendary play which ran at the Young Vic in London until last month. I was so impressed when it started by the stage, it was in the middle of the theatre, so you could see in all ways to the house. But that’s not all, it actually rotated as well, it changed around and the audience could get a look at all angles. Every now and then when a major thing would happen music would hit in and it would spin around with different coloured lights on the stage. It really was something else. Should a brilliant idea to have it moving around, this is what I was meaning about the actors having nowhere to hide, they also just went walking off into the audience to leave the stage every now and then.
I have a new-found respect for Gillian Anderson after watching her incredible performance as Blanche DeBois, it can not be an easy role to take on and she nailed it from the start to the finish. The way she stumbled around, the shaking and the voice as well. Honestly she really can act to the highest level and this performance is unreal. It must have been emotionally draining to lose your mind night after night doing an intense play like this, when she is pretty much on the stage the whole time after arriving! Her delivering of her last and probably one of the most poignant lines in the play “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” was just perfect.
Ben Foster put in a brilliant performance as Stanley as well, he had the shouting the screaming and the smashing of pretty much everything and anything. Yeah that’s right plenty of plates and glasses were smashed across the stage as well. It really did add to the intense nature and feelings between everyone build up and take it over the edge.
At times it was rather raunchy and this caused two old people to walk out of the screening I was watching after Stanley and Stella made up after he lashed out at her. I guess somethings are just too much for some people, but let’s face it the play does have the word ‘desire’ in the title and you can get away with a lot more now than you could in the past. Don’t forget what the play is all about! So I thought that was actually quite amusing, probably a good job they didn’t stay until the end to see what Stanley actually done to Blanche to really make her crack and have the mental breakdown which she had been on the verge of for the entire time.
A massive well done to National Theatre, the Young Vic and the cast for putting together a truly incredible production of A Streetcar Named Desire I really thought it was fantastic from start to finish and it really did bring back memories of reading the play. Maybe I should give it another read as well, it shows how messed up someone can get from life and how pretty much not to deal with it. Does lying and making things up ever actually get you anywhere? Well it sure catch up to Blanche, who is possibly one of the most interesting characters ever created.
I would urge everyone to go and see this but I don’t know if anymore screenings are planned at the moment. It is well worth paying that little bit extra for a different experience at the cinema.