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A Streetcar Named Desire review at Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh – ‘the cast sparkle’

Tumanishvili Theatre's A Streetcar Named Desire. Photo: Ken Reynolds Tumanishvili Theatre's A Streetcar Named Desire. Photo: Ken Reynolds
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Georgia’s Tumanishvili Theatre usually has a surprise up its sleeve each time it comes to Edinburgh, and this time it’s a powerful version of A Streetcar Named Desire that gives us the opportunity to experience an accomplished non-UK theatre company at work as it explores a modern classic.

The action takes its atmosphere from the smoky jazz of the 1950s, with Tennessee Williams’ original text surtitled over the Georgian dialogue, which is tastefully laced with added social niceties to capture the poetic formalness of the Deep South dialogue.

And so we meet Blanche (Nineli Chankvetadze), falling to bits but rallying to keep a strong front for the sake of concerned but distracted Stella (Irina Giunashvili), while Stanley (Imeda Arabuli) and Mitch (Temo Gvalia) circle the sisters from different directions.

As the rivalries play out in an inevitably downward spiral, the passion becomes less physical and more smouldering as the tension focuses on the strains put on the admittedly already dysfunctional family set-up which Blanche’s presence is busy capsizing.

With the sisters’ story at the core, Stanley’s primal presence ticks away like a time bomb as does Mitch’s will-he-won’t-he dithering, both men interfering with the women’s instinct to keep everything on an even keel.

It’s a trajectory that delivers, and the cast sparkle under Dolidze’s tight direction which puts the women’s monologues centre stage, an almost dreamlike space framed by the chaotic real world panned stage left and right across Mamuka Tkeshelashvili’s adaptable touring-style set.

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Powerful version of Streetcar puts dysfunctional family to the fore