Although I had heard much about A Streetcar Named Desire before through snippets and references I had never seen the whole play before and therefore never truly experienced how raw the play can be. Benedict Andrews has moved the setting of the play to the present day in his new production at the Young Vic, ensuring that no emotions are ascribed to period detail or quirks. The audience sits in the round and the stage itself constantly revolves slowly so that the Blanche, Stanley and Stella all seem trapped in the small apartment. The claustrophobia created draws the audience into the evolving and inevitable drama on stage. Even when a character is silent their presence is emphasised through the mundane actions that place them in the way even as they try to lead their lives.
However, this focus on the reality of such cramped living quarters does not diminish the ethereal qualities of the text where Blanche and Stella reminisce of ‘Belle Reve’ and now live at ‘Elysian Fields’. Blanche’s final exit is chilling in the emphasis on its simplicity. Those left behind in the small flat may remain tied up in life’s struggle but this is clearly a world where Blanche could never have belonged.
Gillian Anderson has been rightly applauded for her role as Blanche – she disintegrates before the audience’s eyes as she remains on stage for the majority of the evening. Her Blanche is both terrifying and fragile as well as flamboyant and scared. The suitcase she arrives with continues to lavishly overflow with furs, jewellery and ballgowns but Blanche has clearly not gained much from these material riches as she stares out frightened past the audience.
The play’s run continues until 19th September and it will be broadcast in many cinemas live on 16th September, both options are definitely worth considering.