Falling in love with ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ at NST City

The following week sees the return of A Streetcar Named Desire to its place of conception- NST City. Having toured the past couple of months the play has returned to its place of premiere. Arts Ambassador Gabi was lucky enough to see the show when it first hit the stage at the Southampton press night. Image: The Other Richard

The play was very much a modern adaptation, with characters dressed in basketball shorts and Nikes, despite keeping the Tennessee Williams’ now 70 year old dialogue. Director Chelsea Walker has described A Streetcar Named Desire as “a play which unpicks toxic ideas of masculinity and explores the pressures society still heaps upon women.”  The modern adaptation is perfect for dealing with issues of sexism as it compares the oppression women experienced in the late 1940’s to the issues they still face today.

A Streetcar Named Desire at NST City, Image: The Other Richard

The story is centred around Blanche, played by Kelly Gough with a healthy dose of Williams’ famous Southern-Belle-tragedy. Blanche is a teacher with a dubious past who, having lost the family estate, finds herself living in a small apartment in New Orleans with her married sister Stella and her working-class husband Stanley. Stanley and Blanche clash instantly. They are each other’s polar opposites: male, female, working class, upper class, powerful, weak, brutish and well-refined.  All the characters however experience desire, and the play shows the repercussions that come with it.

A Streetcar Named Desire at NST City, Image: The Other Richard

Each element in the play the Blondie soundtrack, a disco ball, a watermelon smashed on the floor, has a deeper meaning, and the play is wonderfully relatable yet has all the glamour and depth of all the finest productions. The set is a simple box apartment, every inch of which is utilised. Characters wonder around on the roof, or lean on the side, emphasising the claustrophobia of the tiny flat. In the climax of the play the set unravels before the audience’s eyes, connected as it is to Blanche’s mental state. The transformation is so powerful in capturing Blanche as a woman who has nothing and nowhere to run anymore, and the sight is both painfully heart-breaking but also awe-inspiring in the power of the image it creates.

I thoroughly loved this production, from the jaw-dropping drama that unfolded before my eyes, to the complexity and skill of acting that made me feel I knew the characters so well -yet left me wondering about their intentions and motives long after the play. I admired the transparency of the set, how much could be done with it, and the wonderful scenes which were simply a treat for the eyes despite their sadness, left long-lasting memories.

Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton.

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