A Streetcar Named Desire review at NST City, Southampton – ‘a riveting production’
For a long while it’s not clear what Chelsea Walker is trying to do here. The director, who won the RTST Sir Peter Hall director award to create this production, throws a lot at it, and only some seems to stick. But when the final confrontation between Blanche and Stanley comes, everything is made brutally clear.
There’s no suggestion or insinuation here; instead an anger-inducing climax that makes sense of everything that’s come before. A plate of spaghetti, bits of gored watermelon, a balloon popping: these small explosions of excitement are carefully chosen to be like sharp pinpricks to the skin, tiny traumas predicting the unhealable one that will come.
A young cast and characters in contemporary dress update the play. Kelly Gough seems too young to have grown into the mannerisms that cloud Blanche, but there’s something more tragic about that. She’s too young to be acting this old. A tall figure, always in white, her straight posture slouches the more she drinks until she’s a hollowed-out wreck by the end.
Patrick Knowles’ Stanley knows what he’s doing from the off. Along with the way he manspreads across the stage, there something sagacious in his eyes and skittish in his movements. Something sinister, too, in the way he slaps Stella’s behind. His violence is only barely beneath the surface – until it’s not.
On Georgia Lowe’s wide, low box of a set, harsh in its simplicity and unpainted wooden furniture, it’s Streetcar scraped back to the bone, a darker and more solemn interpretation with none of the dreamy elegance that often goes with Williams. Walker has masterfully made this Tennessee for the Time’s Up era.