The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting
archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new
shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of
watching live theatre
A Streetcar Named Desire
Young Vic Theatre and National Theatre At Home Spring 2020
When I reviewed this
Young Vic production of Tennessee Williams's drama here
in 2014 I had
two strong reservations. This video version, made as part of the
National Theatre Live series made for cinemas, shows that one of my
doubts can be withdrawn.
The element that changed
Anderson's performance as Blanche Dubois. On Press Night in 2014 I
felt that she simply hadn't found the character yet, and was racing
through the lines with little communication of either their emotional
depth or poetic beauty.
I did express the hope
characterisation might develop and deepen with time, and this video
made late in the run shows that it did.
Anderson still doesn't
me the Blanche I prefer – Williams says the character is exhausted
and operating on the end of her nerves, and Anderson is too strong
throughout – but she does offer a reading that works.
is a woman who has gotten by all her life on a fey Southern Belle
flirtatiousness, and continues to rely on that mode even though she
is getting too old for it and is more often silly or pathetic than
sexy. Put another way, there are touches of Amanda in The Glass
Menagerie to this Blanche, and they do convey a sad sense of the
And Anderson has slowed
down her originally
frantic delivery of the lines to do full justice to such moments as
her 'Don't hang back with the brutes' aria, the scene with the paper
boy, and her account of her husband's death.
The other element that
bothered me in 2014 was the combination of Magda Willi's set design
and Benedict Andrews's direction.
Having chosen an
staging, a director would ordinarily keep the actors moving, even in
mid-speech, so that they'd be showing their faces to everyone. But
here designer Willi put a skeletal structure of the apartment on a
constantly-turning revolve, and director Andrews seemed happy to
plant his actors solidly in one place, relying on the revolve to do
his work for him.
The result was that at
every important moment of
the play at least half the audience was looking at the actor's back.
The video version
suggests that this was not ineptitude but a
deliberate attempt to create a voyeuristic peeping-tom feel in the
audience, because even with several cameras placed around and above
the action, the editing repeatedly cuts to a shot in which a piece of
the set passes right in front of an actor's face at just the moment
we want to see it.
The production was marketed as a star vehicle for Gillian Anderson and it is directed that way as well, with Ben Foster's Stanley, Vanessa Kirby's Stella and Corey Johnson's Mitch all played very much as supporting roles, the actors never less than adequate but never allowed to draw attention away from the star.
Receive alerts when we post new reviews