Review: A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire runs at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast until June 8

A Streetcar Named Desire

Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Gore Vidal said Tennessee Williams once told him A Streetcar Named Desire, normally dubbed a great 20th century tragedy, in fact has a happy ending.

The playwright added that you could imagine Blanche flirting enjoyably with the doctors at the clinic.

Watching director Emma Jordan's take on the play at the Lyric Theatre, it almost rang true.

After all, Stella and Stanley Kowalski's life in an impoverished quarter of New Orleans is hellish.

We saw a truly violent Stanley in Mark Huberman here whom the younger Du Bois may not escape. And delusional older sister Blanche Du Bois eventually treads lightly to her therapeutic 'holiday' on the arm of the courtly doctor.

As she says in the play's most famous line, she's always depended on "the kindness of strangers". But then, Blanche's life is one long attempted euphemism.

In fact, this production's strength is the way it reminds you that the play, and maybe the tragedy, is also Stella's.

Meghan Tyler is brilliant in the role. She is stuck in a sex-filled but abusive marriage, hit by her brutal husband when pregnant.

Stanley possibly lacked the Brando-esque charisma that made him sympathetic in Elia Khazan's famous movie.

His mate Mitch defensively tells her sister: "It's ok, they're crazy about each other". Stanley of course despises his wife's problem sister and by association their background at the romantically named mini-mansion Belle Rive. It's a collision of different Americas.

The first half of the play didn't always find its rhythm. Aoibheann McCann as Blanche was impressively twitchy at the beginning, arriving on the well named streetcar with her trunk and no money.

Although the repetition of her mannerisms lessened their impact early on, she carried the play.

The relationship with Mitch (outstanding Seamus O'Hara) gave a decent narrative arc to Blanche's troubled life.

When the truth emerges to quash their possible marriage plans, it all goes southern Gothic.

This section was powerful. As we learn Blanche was fired from her teaching job for sleeping with a pupil, production values quivered like her psyche.

The mad lighting and music helped portray Blanche as a vampiric figure or even a ghost from the deep South ante-bellum.

The second half was super dramatic throughout, as you'd expect.

When Blanche and Stanley, with Stella in the maternity suite, faced up to each other in the claustrophobic flat, realism disappeared.

But the most affecting moment of the play, actually lasting a couple of minutes, was Stella howling as her much loved sister was ushered into a twilight zone of treatment. It's a great play; go see it.

A Streetcar Named Desire runs at the Lyric until June 8.

Jane Hardy

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