A Streetcar named Desire | National Theatre | Broadcast

A Streetcar named Desire
National Theatre

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In these dark times when several theatres are potentially facing financial ruin, many archived productions thankfully continue to be streamed on line and currently one of these is Tennessee Williams’ A Street Car Named Desire.

The American dramatist had his first major success with The Glass Menagerie followed by A Street Car Named Desire, considered to be one of his finest plays.  Coming from a troubled background himself much of his work depicts harsh sexual elements and desperate emotional conflict, with this drama being no exception.

Spirited English teacher Blanche Dubois has turned up unannounced (via a street car named Desire) at her pregnant sister Stella’s where she lives in a poor area in downtown New Orleans with her brutal husband Stanley Kowalski.  Blanche is obsessive about her own appearance and initially withholds the truth from Stella as to why she has come to stay. Stanley takes an instant and hostile dislike to Blanche and is furious when she starts dancing with Mitch, who has come to play poker with him.  Conflicts in the household escalate and when Stella is rushed to hospital to give birth, it leaves Blanche alone and at the mercy of her violent brother-in-law.  Desperation and emotional destruction sadly see Blanche’s pretensions decline until finally she is sectioned and taken away.

Vanessa Kirby gives an absorbing portrayal of mistreated Stella, who remains unable to confront the truth of her abusive marriage, with Ben Foster strongly playing her aggressive husband Stanley.  However, the truly outstanding performance comes from Gillian Anderson (Blanche Dubois) who totally commands the stage and as her struggles multiply an intense atmosphere of foreboding descends.  She gives a powerful and deeply moving insight into the troubled character and captures superbly this dark, uncomfortable exploration of humanity.


Reviewer: Jill Lawrie