I’ve got a dog-eared old book called 1000 Movies You Must See Before You Die and to my eternal shame, one that I’ve never got round to is A Streetcar Named Desire. If I ever meet Mark Kermode he’ll probably throw me on the film fan naughty step to have a good, long think about this while he times me on the clock on the microwave. And rightly so.
And so it was that when I went to see the Tennessee Williams play at the Playhouse with my fellow Culture Champ, John, it was in a state of complete ignorance. I was therefore, left completely exposed and totally knocked out by the acting tour de force given by Amanda Drew as the deeply flawed and ultimately doomed Blanche DuBois. Even with a brillaint cast around her, notably Sam Troughton filling Brando’s acting boots as a muscular and extremely physical Stanley Kowolski, Amanda stood out like an iconic star of the 40s in the mould of Katharine Hepburn or Bette Davis. Her smooth, honeyed Southern drawl evoked perfectly the hot, New Orleans setting of the piece.
The sharp, jarring angles of the set on the intimate Playhouse stage were an excellent background for the twin undercurrents of desire and casual violence that are shown as two sides of the same coin. One of the wonderful things about this play being my first experience of A Streetcar Named Desire rather than the black and white film was the use of colour throughout. Blanche stands out against the washed-out, faded colours surrounding her; at the start we see the shining brightness of her in a prim and proper Southern lady white suit and this moves to a stand-out vampish red robe as she is revealed as a fallen and broken woman.
As Stanley uttered the words “We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning” the audience gasped a collective breath and I could only wonder where else Blanche, Stella, Stanley and Mitch could go from there. Without wanting to be spoiler-y, when Blanch utter the line “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” my heart broke a little bit.
I have rarely been as moved by a performance on stage, and the close setting of the Playhouse was just perfect for this play. Hours later John and I were texting each other, still hardly able to believe what a wonderful performance we’d seen. In a complete fanboy/fangirl moment, we stalked the stage door and left our tickets in the hope that Amanda would leave us her autograph. Fingers crossed she does.
The run of A Streetcar Named Desire has now finished, but the upcoming line-up at the Playhouse has got me stupidly excited. Check out what’s on at www.everymanplayhouse.com or call the box office on 0151 709 4776.