Review: A Streetcar Named Desire

**1/2- Lottie Unwin finds sex appeal but little else in this week’s main show at the ADC.

ADC Blanche Desire Sex Stanley Stella Streetcar Syers

A Streetcar Named Desire, Dir: Alexander Winterbotham, 27th-31st October, ADC


Tennessee Williams didn’t give his fans much of a helping hand writing such a disproportionately long first half, but there is no reason to drag it out even further.   While at times the ADC production was truly wonderful, these moments were fleeting.  Helen Parker and Elizabeth Magness’ performances as Blanche and Stella were very consistent, and while consistent parenting and cake mix are good, applied to a play dependent on emotional highs and lows, is far from enthralling.  When Blanche needed to be a wreck who was just about holding it together and Stella a tranquil force something pretty special happened.  But, when the story demanded more, Blanche was still just about holding it together and Stella still tranquil.  In contrast Paul Syers’ Stanley Kowalski was outstanding despite stuttering a few lines – giving the production some real dramatic variation, swaying from the distraught adoring husband to the angry drunk.  The newspaper boy who Blanche tries to seduce looked like he had been trying to find the bar but instead stumbled into New Orleans, confused, like we all were, why his upper class English accent didn’t fit in.

Though the set was beautiful when Blanche struts in complaining about the dirt and rubbing her finger along a bright white tablecloth I couldn’t help thinking that it looked a damn sight nicer than my room in college.  A bit of tea staining on the walls would have done the world of good.  The lighting was, like the acting, samey and when there were effects they looked a bit like accidents, with characters stepping out of set into gloom.  On the one hand, the ten minute scene with Blanche and Stanley in the bedroom, entirely in the dark, was arty and atmospheric, and on the other damn irritating.  My eyes got tired of squinting and with the stunning mild light of the room next door you couldn’t help but wish they would move their sexual tension into the kitchen.  More bizarre blocking was Blanche’s irrepressible love for a particular spot on stage, just right of the table, where ninety percent of her nervous dialogue was spoken.  Considering she is off to a mental asylum surely its best to for her to enjoy her last moments of freedom amongst a few more of the square feet?

I know how many times I checked my phone and dreamed of a glass of wine in the interval but in hindsight, the memory of seconds where something really clicked make me think I really enjoyed it.  The production was sometimes moving, even if such moments were created with a stock use of ‘the tortured shout’.  Also, it was funny, though sadly any dramatic wit was overshadowed by the curtain falling down, doors slowly swinging back open after being slammed shut and awkward negotiations with a big suitcase on the cramped set.  The production poster claims sex appeal, with a smoking girl in a gold dress pouting lustfully and on this front it didn’t fail.  Stanley and Stella having at it on the kitchen table left me a bit sweaty, and a bit in love.  Paul Syers, seriously, call me.