by Tennessee Williams.

Young Vic 66 The Cut Waterloo SE1 8LZ To 19 September 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 26 Aug.
Captioned 2 Sept.
Runs 3hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7922 2922
sold out Day tickets available from 5pm (eves) or 1pm (Mats). Details: www.youngvic.org
The production will be broadcast to 550+ UK cinemas (and others orldwide) on 16 September. (info: www.ntlive.com).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 July.

Unconventional production with a colourful Blanche.
New Orleans in the 1940s becomes part of the spinning world in Benedict Andrews’ Tennessee Williams production. No sooner does Gillian Anderson’s Blanche arrive at her sister’s downtown home and take a drink than the centrally-placed set starts slowly rotating, and continues for three hours. All sorts of interpretations for this are possible, but none seems definite enough to explain the device.

It can help – depending where you are sitting at a particular moment. Or it can be unhelpful, taking a character behind the staircase outside the Kowalski home at a key moment.

But what has become of place and time in this ever-revolving world? The 1940s are long gone, judging by the bathroom fittings, costumes – especially Stella’s – and the modern ’phone. Nor is the sticky New Orleans heat apparent. There are noisy neighbours, voices from all around, but little sense of life lived out of doors when possible.

Blanche brings duplicities and self-deceptions; how much is self-delusion makes an important part of each production. Yet her elegant party-frock, recalling the family’s former estate, seems less credible with the updating.

Apart from a Brechtian shock, the changes add little. And Brecht had a point in deliberately dislocating expectations. Williams’ drama, anyway, is the opposite of Brecht’s critical standpoint, and it’s hard to see what, apart from pure surprise for jaded appetites, Andrews achieves.

Performances are strong, including Vanessa Kirby’s Stella, glad to see Blanche, but loving the husband who takes against her sister, trying to keep things peaceful. Gillian Anderson’s Blanche is older than the script suggests. She doesn’t look older. But the posture, voice and movement have a certainty suggesting experience, while the soft Southern belle attitude soon wears thin, a desperate effort that wouldn’t fool anyone.

It matches her desperation when the medics arrive, an unusually violent encounter, for this Blanche is tough. It’s hard to believe the sexual appointment Ben Foster’s reasonable Stanley mentions was made by him.

Andrews certainly stretches the bounds of the author’s script. Interesting at times, it doesn’t dislodge memories of Patrick Sandford’s superb 2008 Southampton revival, with Katherine Tozer’s 30-year old protagonist.

Blanche DuBois: Gillian Anderson.
Eunice Hubbel: Clare Burt.
Mexican Woman: Lachele Carl.
Steve: Branwell Donaghey.
Young Collector: Otto Farrant.
Stanley Kowalski: Ben Foster.
Doctor: Nicholas Geeks.
Pablo: Troy Glasgow.
Nurse: Stephanie Jacob.
Harold Mitchell: Corey Johnson.
Stella Kowalski: Vanessa Kirby.
Woman: Claire Prempeh.

Director: Benedict Andrews.
Designer: Magda Willi.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound: Paul Arditti.
Music: Alex Baranowski.
Voice: Richard Ryder.
Dialect: Rick Lipton.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Natasha Nixon.

2014-07-30 12:35:47

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