Wednesday, 17 September 2014

nothing belongs on a poker table but cards, chips and whiskey

We've just seen the NT production of Tennessee Williams 'A Streetcar named Desire' which has Gillian Anderson playing Blanche DuBois.

It's been running at the Young Vic, although we actually tried out the NT Live screening of it, which was a very interesting experience.

First, the play. A real tour-de-force for Anderson, from the time she tidily arrives at the New Orleans split house of her sister Stella (Vanessa Kirby) and seeks the Jim Beam from the cupboard under the sink.

Then we watch an alcoholic decline in her fortune, interspersed with squandered saving moments.

Blanche wants the lights dimmed, symbolising a reduction in truth, although it's more about an escape from realism.

"I don't want realism. I want magic. …I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don't tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth…."

Her sister's husband Stanley Kowalski (Ben Foster) is altogether more worldly, wanting to know where the family property has gone, harking to the New Orleans Napoleonic Code of 'what's yours is mine', for what he considers is his share of the (non-existent) family fortune.

The catalyst of Stanley sets a path towards Blanche's self-destruction, along with the twisting revelations from her life before arriving in New Orleans.

There's plenty of brilliant lines delivered, sometimes at a whipcrack pace that leaves one reeling from the need to process as the story moves along.

"…...Soft people have got to shimmer and glow. They've got to put on soft colors, the colors of butterfly wings..." before the demise of Blanche towards living in the bath with a glass of bourbon.

It's been set in a supposedly modern time, although the scripting is original with arcane phone numbers 'Magnolia 1234' etc. some dated expressions and cordless but not cellular phones. For me, this didn't matter one jot and the sparseness of the unwalled setting gave mental licence to edit for the key aspects.

And that's where the NT Live big screening comes in.

It allowed an added intimacy as the camera action stalked in amongst the actors. Still very much a play, it gave stunning perspectives that would never be seen in a conventional production. The Young Vic set revolved too, spinning slowly in its slightly addled state, with the skeletal walls providing ways to see every angle on what was happening.

I loved this way to watch this play. It won't replace conventional theatre, but was a fascinating and appropriate alternative way to see this production, allowing every aspect to be scrutinised. The production anyway calls for the various monologues to be widely delivered and the Young Vic audience in the round formed the bubble of a world representing the New Orleans Quarter.

This was a kind of 'for one day only' thing, but I shall watch out for others.


OldLady Of The Hills said...

I read about this production in the NYT--the reviewer gave it High Marks! I know this play very very well---having seen the Original Broadway Production and many other productions over the years---PLUS, I was in a production of the play..(I played the woman upstairs, Eunice Hubbell) when I was in Summer Stock, back in the early 1950's--it's a Beautiful Play and so very touching....I would love to see this production....And hoped that somehow there would be a DVD or something---if you hear of anything, do let me know. Blanche is all about..."Put a paper lantern over the light"....all about hiding anything flawed or that she thinks is ugly....She is such a complex character--and to me, one of Williams greatest women is such a wonderful play....One never tires of it---just like Shakespeare----much to be mined in the subtext of the words.....!

rashbre said...

Naomi I thought this would be one you'd like - although I didn't know you'd played Eunice!

I'll check with the NT regarding DVDs etc, although I think they are keeping the 'rights' for cinema showings only at the moment.

Pat said...

I also have always loved this play. I would expect Gillian to make a great Blanche Dubois but no-one - to my mind - can ever touch Vivien Leigh's unforgettable performance. Mustn't forget Marlon who was born to play Stanley Kowalski.