There’s a reason why we so often see Tennessee Williams’ seminal piece on the stage. His semi-autobiographical account, boldly addressing themes of fragility, sexuality and class, has the power to transcend its time period and bring poignant meaning to a modern audience.
Unlike some more recent updated productions, SuTCo keeps the play firmly set in the steamy backdrop of late 1940s New Orleans. In a somewhat unsophisticated flat, we see Blanche DuBois, a fading southern belle from a colonial line, arriving bewildered and lost amongst the rundown houses of Elysian Fields to stay with her beloved younger sister, Stella. Her embarrassment at the nature of Stella’s flat and her disdain towards her husband, Stanley Kowalski, a blue-collar worker at an automobile factory. The threat Stanley believes she poses sets him on a path of destruction.
The production is fronted by a talented cast. Kirsty Magee captures well the dual aspects of Blanche – her virtuous outer facade, and her inner self doubt. Opposite her, Jack Young’s Stanley is primal and aggressive, as we watch him as he, with a malicious grin rips into Blanche’s reputation. Caitlin Hawkins’s Stella is a bystander during this action but not in the least wasted as her dismayed expressions say all that we need to understand what she is feeling.
Alex Cosgriff’s Mitch, Stanley’s fellow work colleague, is intriguing. Usually portrayed onstage as burly and clumsy; Mitch is now gawky and socially inept. Yet, his portrayal of the character works, the humour is amplified especially through his ungainly attempts at conversing with Blanche. Pippa Atkinson’s Eunice provides comic relief, as she inquisitively welcomes Blanche into her new home. Equally notable performances come from Tom Rigby and Sebastian Belli as fellow poker players Steve and Pablo, Michael Saliba as a bemused paperboy wooed by Blanche, and Madison Been appearing ethereally as a haunting Mexican flower seller.
Music is provided by a live jazz band, whilst at times playing too loudly over the action, set the humid tone of the production. The blackout set changes are abrupt but is a minor flaw as Mike Alexander’s direction is immersive and intimate ensuring that Williams’ play still moves the audience’s hearts with every performance.
A Streetcar Named Desire continues Friday 14th and Saturday 15th October. Tickets can be bought from SU box office.