A Streetcar Named Desire – 3 stars

Nice Swan Theatre Company, Newcastle.

After three successful years producing some challenging musicals, Nice Swan now turn their attention to a double bill of straight plays, the first of which is this one.

Director Lewis Pilton tackles the play with an assured confidence. His ideas are clear and well executed, and his staging is simple but effective. His decision to show us the suicide of Blanche’s husband at the beginning of the play is an interesting one and it works quite nicely.

Desire is a play with a long running time, but the young ensemble cast did well, on the whole, to maintain their energy during such a demanding piece. There were a few apparent lapses in concentration which burst apart the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief (a necessary but forgotten prop being clearly thrust onto stage by a crew member; a character failing to use an archway established as the doorway between two rooms and therefore appearing to run through a wall), and some unforgivable moments of a lack of attention to detail (Stanley remaining fully clothed while taking Stella to bed; grapes brought on in a very modern plastic container). An insistence to accompany many of the scenes with an intrusive and sometimes inappropriate underscore also jarred somewhat.

Thankfully, however, all this did not detract from some nice performances. Jessica Brady was suitably put-upon as Stella, and Dale Jewitt displayed some moments of the brooding, animalistic nature of Stanley. Sean Bell gave a nicely understated performance as Stanley’s best friend Mitch, nervously dancing around Blanche in his attempts to court her. As Blanche, Katie Gibson gave a standout performance. It was believable and sustained, and her descent into madness was subtly played.

All in all this was an admirable production by the company, which entertained a large and enthusiastic audience – many of which appeared to be school students, whose study of the play can only be improved and enhanced by having seen Nice Swan’s production.

(originally posted 24 February 2012)

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