“A Streetcar Named ‘Desire” is one of the most recognised plays in theatrical cinema, lately. I saw it very recently, when the production was held in the prestigious “National Theatre,” Central London. There is also the ‘classic hit’ movie which is based upon the play. It was first written and produced in 1951 and has the same title. During that period, people were not allowed to mention anything involving sexual or racist discrimination, and as this was one of the major laws, some scenes in the movie were adapted, deliberately. The first item on the stage, which abruptly caught my attention, was that it revolved.
I was getting excited as I had never seen one of these before, but when the show commenced, it came to my realisation that the four to five different stage settings had a similar atmosphere to each other. It was the kind of surrounding you would find in a loud, disruptive, filthy and rough town. It seemed as if the neighbourhood wasn’t quiet and peaceful, because people were sitting on benches, talking freely on the spiral staircase and their lifestyles appeared happy enough in Elysian Fields, a small (possibly fictional) town in the state of New Orleans, U.
S. A. Coming to think of it, it reminds me that the fake American accent was exaggerated and easy to recognise – it was imitated very poorly! The first scene began with a famous Hollywood actress – Glenn Close – who plays the leading role of “Blanche Du Bois”. She was a young woman who had run-away from her home, “Belle Reve” in Laurel (Mississippi), because her past had degraded her badly in the local community. Blanche decides to visit her younger sister, “Stella Kowalski”, (Essie Davis) who lives with her husband, “Stanley Kowalski” (Iain Glen).
However, Blanche does not personally know Stanley, but when she does, things begin to go haywire in the ground floor apartment. THIS is where the conflict starts, the reason being that Blanche’s history involves prostitution. It has a major link to Stella and Stanley’s relationship, and the key theme of sexuality is successfully transmitted in “Streetcar”, just as the respected playwright, Tennessee Williams – born on March 26th 1911 – intended to do so.
In this play, I thought that the number of characters was restricted, so the audience tended to focus on each actor’s personality and behaviour (within their role) more than they would normally. The audience generally consisted of middle-aged and above adults, although there was a minority of youngsters, too. Stella Kowalski is a man who is out of control with his wife and his fierce aggression makes him appear ill mannered and quick-tempered. Despite behaving violently with his wife, Stella, I reckon he showed love and loyalty to her, at the same time.
We can see this when Blanche arrives “into the future, from her past”. He hates her living under the same roof as his wife and himself. Stanley is extremely offended by this, as there is now a distraction between the strong and powerful bond for desire, between him and his lover. He goes to extreme limits and puts in his best efforts to get rid of his sister-in-law. Firstly, Stanley digs up some juicy information about Blanche and forwards it to his friend “Harold Mitchell (Mitch)” played by Robert Pastorelli. Mitch is attracted to Blanche at first sight.
They start dating because his mother is sick and he wants to see her happy by marrying someone, yet Mitch is totally unaware of the dirty facts, Stanley warns him of; such as when Blanche had been a teacher in her former town, news had spread about her having an “improper” relationship with a seventeen-year old boy. This, however, may not have been true at all, but one thing was definite! Blanche had been a prostitute previously, which could be another explanation as to why she came to Elysian Fields; TO START AFRESH!
As for Stella, she was the most reasonable and understandable character in “Streetcar”. She is a woman who will give up anything for her husband, mainly because of the pleasurable sex he gives her. She is forgiving to Stanley and on a personal thought, my opinion was that she was the kind of woman who loved her partner so much and tried to reconcile with Stanley, every time. She knew she could fit things into position, by showing care and loyalty to her loved one. Stella practically surrendered her life for her husband, and I admired her role, very much.
Did you say Blanche? I do not know where to start! The very first impression she gives the audience – when she arrives at her destination – is that of a disturbed and over-acting, “old looking”, young woman! She instantly seems slightly abnormal, when she dresses up formally, going to Stella’s house! This is where the title of the play is mentioned, in the opening scene. It does not give away anything about the storyline, itself, but the word “DESIRE”, symbolises a certain passion, desperation and need, as you watch the three-hour long performance.
Blanche has a “DESIRE” to own a man who is “perfect”, who will treat her “just right”, but to her unfortunate surprise, her dreams aren’t fulfilled. Her life has hurt and destroyed her, as she has attempted to seek love and this has resulted into sleeping with several men. Every step of her life, bad luck has been on her side and she tries to grab the future, before it vanishes, too. She needs to be loved and taken care of. Blanche wants to hide from the truth; herself, so she obviously pretends to be a cheerful, flirting, sexy and irresistible woman, which she likes to consider herself to be.
Blanche’s mental state is acceptable, after her experiences and again, another essential theme is conveyed by the playwright; MADNESS! There is already so much going on in her mind; she is depressed, let alone Stanley scarring her forever, by raping her. Here, too, cruelty is expressed. On a general perspective, I thought the play was easier to understand than the film, though acting wise my first preference would be the performance of the film.
This is because Stanley seems angrier and bolder than ever, Stella is sensitive and has to make a choice for survival, when she is told of the rape; she is in denial. I also thought that Blanche’s role was played well in the film. She clearly defines a gullible, passionate and imaginative young lady, whereas on stage, a brave Blanche, who is prepared for any misfortune destiny might bring her, would influence the audience. I sympathised for her very much in the movie, but otherwise she deserved what she got!
I think this is more than enough information, for anybody who is deciding, whether or not they should go to see this extraordinary production. Actually, if I had been asked what rating I would give it, shortly after viewing the stage play, my feedback would have been very negative, because the duration was too long and the scenes were dragged. Now that I have written so much about the characters and the storyline, it has made me realise how “A Streetcar Named ‘Desire'” differs from other shows.
It is NOT full of suspense (which is the reason why I have revealed and described the storyline in so much detail). It is NOT full of excitement, thrill or climax, not at all. The play is unique in its own way. Tennessee Williams, has indicated deep emotions and sentiments, which can be felt through ordinary and insane human beings. I think the themes in this review are hard to identify, unless you are prepared and know beforehand, what to expect. It is the perfect type of entertainment if you need a break, to relax and study or consider life, from various points of view. So overall, a MUST-SEE!