A Streetcar Named Desire

Published July 29, 2014

What’s it all about?

Tennessee Williams’ classic drama is renowned for its iconic leading role, Blanche DuBois, a woman who leaves her home in Laurel, Mississippi – for reasons we discover later in the play – to stay with her sister Stella and Stella’s brutish husband Stanley on Elysian Fields Avenue. To put it mildly, Blanche and Stanley don’t get on, and the anger and unrest that develops within the household sends the Southern belle’s life spiralling out of control.

Not one to follow convention, director Benedict Andrews has also done away with the play’s conventional setting and brought it forward to modern day New Orleans, where the characters sport contemporary outfits and occupy a sleek ground floor apartment.

Who’s in it?

Gillian Anderson is an unforgettable Blanche, capturing the character’s desperate loneliness, deluded sense of grandeur and teasing seductiveness in a performance that is both harrowing and mesmerising to watch. Ben Foster embodies the animalistic qualities that Blanche uses to describe him, prowling around the skeletal set like a ravenous beast stalking its prey. Vanessa Kirby shines as his on-stage wife, a victim of domestic violence who is unable to see past the love and attraction she feels towards her aggressive husband, and whose loyalties are torn with the arrival of her sister, about whom she cares just as much.

What should I look out for?

Magda Willi’s mesmerising revolving set. Not only does it cleverly increase in speed as tensions grow and relationships become tauter, as Blanche hits the bottle its disorientating changes in direction reflect her descent into drunkenness.

In a nutshell?

Gillian Anderson gives a powerhouse performance as Blanche DuBois in a highly charged production that offers a fresh take on an enduring classic.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@montyhugh: The Young Vic Streetcar Named Desire was quite something last night. Best thing? Ben Foster’s squat, bulldog-like, skin-crawling Kowalski

@TMOWilkinson Saw Gillian Anderson in Streetcar last night… She was stunning, as was Magda Willi’s rotating Kiesler-esque set

Will I like it?

Despite its length – the show comes in at nearly three and a half hours – Andrews’ production is well worth missing your train for. The three leading performances are surely some of the best you’ll see on the London stage this summer and Willi’s revolving set allows audiences a unique view of the unfolding action that you won’t find anywhere else.

A Streetcar Named Desire is playing until 19 September. Day tickets are available from the Young Vic’s box office on 020 7922 2922. For those not lucky enough to get hold of one, there is also an NT Live screening of the production on 16 September.