A Streetcar Named Desire

October 4, 2017 | By | Reply More

★★☆☆☆      Underwhelming

King’s Theatre: Tue 3– Sat 7 Oct 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

Worthy but earthbound, Rapture Theatre’s touring production of A Streetcar Named Desire at the King’s never really convinces.

Tennessee Williams’s 1947 play about faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois, her brittle sister Stella and Stella’s brutish husband Stanley is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of the 20th century. Anyone coming to it here for the first time would be forgiven for wondering why.

Julia Taudevin, Gina Isaac and Kazeem Tosim Amore. Pic: Richard Campbell

The poetry and heightened realism of the original are replaced by a vague portentousness that makes for a disconnected production and rather heavy going. Moments that should have a shattering, violent intensity produce more of a shrug.

There are certainly strong and committed performances here – Gina Isaac’s Blanche has a definite magnetism, for example – but the production is hampered by some strange choices from director Michael Emans. The decision to cast black actors as Stanley and his friend Mitch is a potentially intriguing one, but the play’s use of racist language means that it cannot be a case of colour-blind casting. In particular, Blanche’s description of Stanley as an ‘ape’ or ‘sub-human’ takes on a new dimension that this version flags up but fails to explore.

Joseph Black’s Stanley is a strong characterisation, but suffers from the peculiar lack of connection between the characters that is a feature here. It is noticeable that Blanche’s confrontation with Kazeem Tosim Amore’s suitably dignified, wounded Mitch is the first time that it catches fire – which, almost three hours in, is far too long to wait.

lack of consistency

Individual performances are more than adequate – as would be expected from actors as accomplished as Julia Taudevin and Billy Mack – but there is a lack of consistency, not least in the accents.

Richard Evans’s set occupies an odd halfway house between realism and the symbolic. Similarly, Pippa Murphy’s music is very fine, not least because of Colin Steele’s gorgeous, Miles Davis-inflected muted trumpet, but calls attention to itself too readily; some more abstract sounds undercut the action rather than underscoring it.

The same is true for some of Davy Cunningham’s more obtrusive lighting effects. All of this, plus the casting, suggests that somewhere along the line a much more radical and potentially fascinating style was considered, but ditched in favour of a conventional approach geared to the demands of touring theatre and school groups. Unfortunately the result is unsatisfactory.

Running time 3 hours 20 minutes including one interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.
Tuesday 3 – Saturday 7 October 2017
Evenings 7.30 pm, Matinee Wed and Sat at 2.30 pm
Tickets: http://www.edtheatres.com/streetcar.

ENDS

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