Review: A Streetcar Named Desire

New Farm Nash Theatre

Shuffles were seen from the audience as they leant forward in their seats, waiting in awe for that historic cry. “STELLAAAAAAA!” cried the slick Stanley, played by Tristan Ozinga. With a great, powerful scream, ears trembled and eyes widened. Would Stella take back her beloved Stanley?

A cast of 10 brings Tennessee William’s mid-20th century U.S. classic to life through director, Brenda White’s dramatic play at Nash Theatre. It tells the tale of the classic abusive, yet passionate relationship between Stanley and Stella, played by Lia Davies, and the unintentional meddling of her desperate older sister, Blanche Dubois (Melanie Myers). Blanche reveals her past in an attempt to reach out for help, yet eventually spirals out of control.

As the eager audience stepped within the building and rushed for the best seats, eyes immediately gazed at the dynamic, beautiful set. The walls were run down and moulding, the naked bulbs flickered, papers were scattered around, the bed was unmade, yet a feeling of such homeliness entranced us. As Blanche DuBois, with face upturned described her new home as small, I saw beyond a stage. I saw a street way, a building and additional space within the apartment.

The characters’ interactions within the seen and unseen rooms created depth in stage presence, such as the calling out from the kitchen and the singing in the bathroom. The first poker scene that resulted in Stanley lashing out and assaulting Stella moved rapidly and quickly from the living room to the kitchen and the sounds and screams heard before exploding back onto stage created an exciting, dramatic scene. The additional scenery within the set didn’t need to be shown explicitly for it to be acknowledged and vivid in the minds of the audience, and I applaud the set designer for that.

The layering of interactions between characters within single scenes was really interesting to watch. The introductory scene showed characters in each layer of the set, all interacting at once. The dialogue flowed together in harmony. At times, however, it was unclear whether characters could hear others talking about them within certain distances, or if they were just ignoring them.

Blanche grew more and more fascinating once her decent into madness was illustrated through the exposure of her thoughts, such as the repetitive dainty tune that played throughout the performance. The distinction, however that the music was from within her mind was only made clear half way through the play.

The accompanying soundtrack at times ended and began abruptly. During solemn or emotional moments the cast did a great job at keeping the sincerity and emotion in their voices while speaking loudly and clearly above the music.

The lighting reflected the moods of the scenes and interactions between characters well. I would have liked to see more consistency with some lighting techniques, however, like the flickering bedroom light.

The cast’s accents were good, with most unfailingly upholding them. I loved that each character had their own unique voice too, which suited their character’s personality perfectly. Meredith Downes’ role as the supportive upstairs neighbour Eunice was a personal favourite, as she had a strong, attitude within her voice.

Onstage props were crafted with fine detail and it was entertaining to see the characters interact with them. The old, battered, swinging door may have posed a problem as characters were unable to slam it, but the audience was able to see beyond the prop. Smoking was essential for the era and characters, but the cast used cigarettes moderately throughout the play.

It was surprising to see a lack of younger audience members, as the play has much to interest all generations, with each character marvellous to watch. I recommend this entertaining, dramatic and realistic play to all.

Runs until 1 June.

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