Previewed: A Streetcar Named Desire

Michael McLauchlan interviews Matt Dann, the director of the sultry production of the American classic ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. Dann tells us why the play has gained such an iconic status and why it’s worth seeing it.

Michael McLauchlan streetcar named desire

Matt, summarise the play for me.

Blanche DuBois, a fading southern Belle, comes to New Orleans to stay with her sister Stella who lives with her very animalistic and primal husband Stanley. The play is essentially about the conflict between Blanche and Stanley, the romantic element between Blanche and Mitch, and how these situations change DuBois as a whole.

We can both agree that “A Streetcar Named Desire” is an incredibly ambitious script? (Matt nods) Why take that extra risk?

First and foremost, I love Tennessee Williams (he was actually one of the reasons why I came to study English at Durham). But I mainly wanted to put it on because I knew it would challenge me as a director. Having done the 2011 Fresher’s play, the quasi-musical “Oh! What a Lovely War”, then moving on to Shakespearean comedy in the summer term, “A Streetcar Named Desire” seemed like a natural departure from everything I have done so far.

Surely you must be a little intimidated?

Hugely. I knew it was going to be an ambitious task – and not just for me but for any of the actors in the show. It didn’t put me off the production though. I wanted to push myself and the actors and give the audience something that more ambitious. Also working with this particular group of actors every day for the past 4 weeks has been absolutely gratifying. They get me out of bed in the morning for rehearsals.

Any recurrent advice that you give your actors to perform “A Streetcar”?

I’ve encouraged them to lose control and “let go”. I would give the actors a vague sense of blocking but then encourage them to experiment with things. This gives the piece a more organic feel. I’ve also asked the actors to seek originality and not depend on film adaptations.

Favourite character and why?

Blanche. There is this wide-ranging conception of her being a crazy woman. She becomes unhinged but it became clear to me that she is not crazy but incredibly lonely. That loneliness and that need for protection determine her behaviour, making “Streetcar” incredibly tragic and moving.

Give me the nitty-gritty details Matt. Should we expect a complete transformation of the Assembly Rooms?

Most definitely. We are constructing a whole entity on stage. There is quite a lot of woodwork; a lot of set pieces being brought in.  We’ve even got a live jazz band performing over the action!

Why should people see Thrust Stage’s adaptation of “A Streetcar Named Desire”?

It is an incredible play performed by one of the most talented casts that I’ve seen in Durham. It is an incredibly lively interpretation in terms of set, lighting, music… It’s also epic in scale (not just the play but the vision of the piece). We just want people to be impressed. Also, the play is not easy to watch; it is incredibly harrowing. Don’t you just want to go to theatre and see something that will make you think?

You’ve sold it to me Matt. When is it on?

8th – 10th November at 19.30 at the Assembly Rooms.