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A Streetcar Named Desire review at Leicester Curve – ‘saved by good actors’

Stewart Clarke (Stanley Kowalski) and Charlie Brooks in A Streetcar Named Desire at Curve Leicester. Photo: Manuel Harlan Stewart Clarke (Stanley Kowalski) and Charlie Brooks in A Streetcar Named Desire at Curve Leicester. Photo: Manuel Harlan
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Tennessee Williams’s gritty, gripping masterpiece of desire, delusion and shattered illusions has an enduring potency, but director Nikolai Foster — initiating a new commitment for Curve to create original productions of classics especially for Leicester — makes the production sometimes harder going that it needs to be.

Firstly, it is quite hard to tune in, partly because of inconsistent, over-exaggerated accent work. Hurried delivery amplifies the problem to also make it frequently inaudible in the studio’s unforgiving acoustics, especially in the case of Charlie Brooks as Blanche, whose underplaying may be a choice to reveal more vulnerability.

Then there are the frequent directorial interventions that seek to impose their own commentary, but at times seriously overplay their hand. The symbolic flower-seller, who cries out “Flores, Flores” as the final act reaches its climax with the stripping of Blanche DuBois’ last secrets, does a march of duty from behind the onstage apartment right across the front row, so you can’t focus at all on Blanche’s speech. The frequent use of loud sound effects and jazz is also overdone.

But this production of A Streetcar Named Desire is saved by some fine performances around the central tragic figure of Blanche. Stewart Clarke brings muscle, in every sense, to his robust, dangerous Stanley Kowalski, who rumbles Blanche just as she is wise to his ways, too, and Dakota Blue Richards brilliantly projects both the fine line of desire for her husband Stanley and her protective instincts for her sister Blanche. Best of all, Patrick Knowles brings real warmth and then devastating hurt to Mitch, whose own tentative attempt to make a relationship with Blanche is so horribly derailed.

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Even a production fraught with problematic directorial choices can't derail Williams's masterpiece or the good actors working within it