by Tennessee Williams.

Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To 9 October 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 21, 29 Sept 1.30pm 2, 6 Oct 2pm.
Audio-described 30 Sept.
BSL Signed 7 Oct.
Post-show Discussion 23 Sept.
Runs 3hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 September.

Lifting the veil on Southern mystique.
New Orleans, Bolton-style; a plain northern consciousness infuses Tennessee Williams’ Louisiana in David Thacker’s gripping production. Though not the most atmosphere-soaked Streetcar ever, it has a rare strength.

Played in the round, there’s no room for half-hidden distances or remote symphonies of seedy city-glamour. The staircase to the upstairs apartment runs between banks of audience. The Kowalskis’ two-room flat sits amongst us. Where everything is open, utter honesty’s needed, and Thacker’s fine cast are honest all the way.

He’s realised that, for all Stella and Blanche are opposites, the one embracing city poverty, the other lost in impracticable dreams, spinning lies and self-deceptions to survive, they are sisters. Amy Nuttall’s Stella and Clare Foster’s Blanche clearly come from the same gene-pool, giving added point to the contrast between them.

Their faces and slight, mid-stature, figures evidence it; so does their golden, curling hair, Stella’s worn practically high, while Blanche’s falls girlishly down. And – a subliminal extra from costume designer Mary Horan – their dresses’ colour and patterns suggest similarity of taste.

Strong as Nuttall’s Stella is, not fully scenting the feral battle between her husband and her sister, the weight of performance falls mainly on Foster, for Williams backs the loser. On the edge from the first, words cascade nervously, their lightness expressing fear as she tries every tactic she can, from the self-revealing defensiveness of denial to assuming the archness of a Southern belle.

Ever active, even when emerging with apparent calm from a bath she slips into seduction mode, while her nerves are repeatedly seen in action – rushing to the ‘phone or finding an excuse for one more drink.

Kieran Hill refuses to let Stanley be a contender for the Marlon Brando hulking memorial award. His scenes in collar and tie, his rooting of the early hostility to Blanche in rational causes, work alongside his more visceral enmity.

Huw Higginson’s cautious Mitch clearly follows Stanley’s advice when wised-up to Blanche. Among a good supporting cast Susan Twist is (as always) outstanding, both as a street-peddler whose ‘Flowers for the dead’ call has fatal resonance and a stern, pale medic.

Stella Kowalski: Amy Nuttall.
Negro Woman: Flo Wilson.
Eunice Hubbel: Annie Tyson.
Stanley Kowalski: Kieran Hill.
Harold Mitchell: Huw Higginson.
Blanche DuBois: Clare Foster.
Steve Hunnel: David MacCreedy.
Pablo Gonzales: Sebastien Torkia,
Sailor/Young Collector: Sam Lupton.
Prostitute/Mexican Woman/Matron: Susan Twist.
Drunkard/Doctor: Colin Connor.

Director: David Thacker.
Designer: Ciaran Bagnall.
Lighting: Wayne Dowdeswell.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Composer/Musical Director/Pianist: Carol Sloman.
Costume: Mary Horan.
Movement: Lesley Hutchison.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Tarek Iskander.

2010-09-21 02:20:54

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