Review: A Streetcar Named Desire

The leading actors ensure the production is as good as the original
The leading actors ensure the production is as good as the original
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Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire is such a great play, it would be very easy to mess it up royally.

Scottish Ballet knows what it is doing in this adaptation, though, and it really, really works.

Led by Sophie Martin as Stella, the three leads are spectacular. Martin stands out for her dancing, while Eve Mutso’s acting as Blanche is great and Tama Barry’s Stanley has a suitably attractive foreboding presence.

The warehouse theme of the set seems like a rather random choice, but the use of the set as part of the dance – the fragmenting of props into the crates they are made from around the dancers – is very effective. A particularly beautiful sequence showing the fall of the DuBois family from wealth to, well, mainly being dead was portrayed through a series of family photographs, culminating in the entire set collapsing around Blanche.

Unity of purpose between the drama, dance and music is the highest achievement of the production. The excellent music is deeply integrated with the choreography, sometimes even telling the story alone while the choreography merely decorates.

Concrete sounds such as crickets and Champagne corks add an extra layer of meaning, but fans of the original play will be disappointed by the stingy amount of blues piano used in the score. Music history pedants, meanwhile, will be annoyed by the swing music used in the bowling scenes, which feels wrong for New Orleans.

Non-traditional sexual relationships in ballet trios isn’t a new thing, but it certainly gives an extra edge to some of the inspired choreography in the production.

Some pieces referencing swing dance feel forced, and the rape scene at the end is a little vulgar, but the choreography is wonderful, building on character rather than superficially related set-pieces.

It genuinely doesn’t matter if you know the story already or not – in fact, some of the symbolic elements are extremely heavy handed. This production is every bit as stirring as the original.

• Run ends tomorrow, followed by national tour.