A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams
Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Pitlochry Festival Theatre

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A Streetcar Named Desire Credit: Fraser Band
Kirsty Stuart as Blanche and Nalini Chetty as Stella Credit: Fraser Band
Matthew Trevannion as Stanley and Nalini Chetty as Stella Credit: Fraser Band
Nalini Chetty, Kirsty Stuart and Matthew Trevannion Credit: Fraser Band
Keith Macpherson as Harold and Kirsty Stuart as Blanche Credit: Fraser Band
Kirsty Stuart as Blanche and Matthew Trevannion as Stanley Credit: Fraser Band
Matthew Trevannion as Stanley and Keith Macpherson as Harold Credit: Fraser Band
Nalini Chetty as Stella Credit: Fraser Band
Kirsty Stuart as Blanche Credit: Fraser Band

In a complete transformation from this afternoon's production, designer Emily James's gorgeous design—built around a revolve with a spiral staircase in the centre, cleverly integrating with the fixed balcony above—takes us right back to the intense heat of the old American South for Artistic Director Elizabeth Newman's production of this Tennessee Williams classic play.

Stanley (Matthew Trevannion) and Stella Kowalski (Nalina Chetty) live in two rooms in a run-down apartment building, but she was brought up on a country estate with her sister Blanche (Kirsty Stuart), who arrives to stay. Blanche is horrified by the conditions in which her sister is living, and especially the violence she witnesses, but cracks soon appear in the character she portrays of a delicate flower of higher breeding and morals until she is found to be a fantasist who has sunk even lower than those on whom she looks down.

Making full use of the economic advantage of the ensemble approach to the season, there are eleven actors in the cast playing 14 parts, some appearing relatively briefly—which is rare to see outside the big national theatre stages without falling back on a 'community' (i.e. unpaid) chorus. However the story really focuses on the main trio, with Stella trying to keep Stanley and Blanche both happy and keep them apart, plus Harold Mitchell (Keith Macpherson), or 'Mitch', one of Stanley's poker-playing buddies who takes a shine to Blanche and whom she sees as her escape from the mess into which she has got herself.

Trevannion's Stanley is an intense but intelligent bulldog, who is never taken in by Stella's stories and won't let any matter go once he gets his teeth into it. He feels always on the edge of a violent explosion, and can go from intense insistence to full-out bawling in a second, and indeed fists do fly on a few occasions (fight director Robin Hellier). Chetty is the wife who, though having a more 'refined' upbringing, is totally committed to living in this very different community that is so alien to her sister because of her love for Stanley.

Stuart's Blanche makes you want to shake some sense into her to stop her from damaging herself as well as others, but it's hard not to have some sympathy for her, and for all of these very flawed characters, and to want them to achieve some kind of happiness by the end. While Blanche is one of the great female theatrical roles given a tour-de-force performance, all four are fully-rounded and totally believable characters, as are some of the smaller roles, notably Deirdre Davis's Eunice, the upstairs neighbour.

This is one of the longest productions in the current season at Pitlochry, but as a very good production of one of the twentieth centuries greatest plays, it's well worth a visit.

Reviewer: David Chadderton

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