A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire tells the story of Blanche du Bois, a beautiful Southern Belle whose husband commits suicide after she catches him with another man. In the course of the play, most of her family dies, her family estate has to be sold, and she is forced to live with her sister Stella, who has married a young Polish immigrant named Stanley. Stanley and Blanche’s mutual animosity drives the rest of this tragic story.

The whole cast transforming into a garden of flowers for the dead is a particularly haunting moment, while the decision to have the dead Alan physically present throughout much of the play is extremely effective.

Scottish Ballet’s A Streetcar Named Desire, originally produced in 2012, is a highly successful collaboration between theatre director Nancy Meckler and choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. It gets straight to the emotional truth of the original play, drawing on those aspects which ballet most ably expresses. The result is an emotionally charged tale; stripped of dialogue, the emotional subtext is left raw and exposed.

Sexual desire lies at the heart of this production, and it is fully exploited. One of the strongest moments comes when Blanche's husband Alan (Victor Zarallo) first meets his lover (Thomas Edwards). We see Blanche (Eve Mutso) dance with her new husband, affectionate and enthusiastic, but it’s not until Alan dances with his lover that we realise it was also chaste. Alan’s second dance is perhaps the most erotic moment in the play, made more so by the contrast with what comes before.

This emphasis on sexual desire, however, also leads to one of the weaker aspects of the production. Erik Cavallari's Stanley, while technically excellent and a joy to watch, lacks the brutal animal intensity the character calls for. His lack of credibility infects other aspects of the show, such as his relationship with Stella (Sophie Martin) who, while coming from the same genteel roots as Blanche, has assimilated herself into Stanley’s world partly through her sexual awakening. A lack of sexual chemistry between Martin and Cavallari makes this hard to credit.

At the heart of the show, however, is Blanche. Mutso’s performance is excellent. She begins as a Southern Belle, graceful in a very familiar, classical way, completely in her element. By the second act, however, there are scenes in which Blanche is so completely broken that she barely moves, and Mutso brings such a magnetic energy to her stillness so that we feel the agony of every step.

The use of symbolism is also particularly worth noting. Occasionally it gets a bit silly (such as when Blanch flutters her hand by the light bulb to demonstrate that she is like a moth) but at other times it is wonderful. The whole cast transforming into a garden of flowers for the dead is a particularly haunting moment, while the decision to have the dead Alan physically present throughout much of the play is extremely effective.

In all, this is a magnificent and highly accessible ballet that creates a perfect synthesis between its theatrical roots and its new medium.

Reviews by Grace Knight

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

After the hugely successful UK world premiere tour of A Streetcar Named Desire in 2012, Scottish Ballet returns to the Festival Theatre with this award winning production.

Trying to leave a troubled past behind her, fading southern belle Blanche DuBois moves into her sister Stella’s New Orleans apartment. Stella’s brutish husband Stanley sees that Blanche is not what she appears to be, and sets out to destroy her…

This vibrant take on A Streetcar Named Desire, born through collaboration with theatre and film director Nancy Meckler and international choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is a powerful infusion of drama and dance.

The Scottish Ballet Orchestra accompanies live, performing the Jazz infused score by Peter Salem.

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