Friday, July 1

A Streetcar Named Desire – Altrincham Garrick Playhouse

First performed on Broadway in 1947, Tennessee Williams ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is a tragedy that highlights the inequalities of society in post war America. The play particularly shares the negative effects experienced by women during this time. Associated by many as one of the most significant of all American plays, it is certainly a brave step that the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse have undertaken in performing this epic tale.

For those unfamiliar with the story, the play relays the story of Blanche Dubois (Kathryn Worthington) who arrives in New Orleans from Laurel, Mississippi having been given “a leave of absence” from her teaching role. She moves into her sister Stella’s apartment (Fiona Primrose) in the unbearable heat of New Orleans that she shares with Stella’s husband, the formidable Stanley Kowalski (Matthew Barnell). The antagonistic relationship between Blanche and Stanley from the moment she arrives in New Orleans provides the audience with a relationship that is uneasy to watch yet at the same time, extremely hard not to watch.

Kathryn Worthington must be applauded for her excellent performance as Blanche DuBois, Stella’s estranged Sister. Her portrayal of Blanche as a vulnerable woman from Mississippi, desperate to be loved and accepted by all was phenomenal. Her character crumbles as the play progresses and her fragility is heightened when finally, her sanity is questioned towards a dramatic ending. Worthington displays an almost “musical” southern states accent and her portrayal of Blanches happy go lucky, innocence versus her deep-rooted insecurities was executed to perfection.

Fiona Primrose who portrayed the part of the dutiful wife Stella Kowalski, in some ways demonstrated the hopelessness of a woman in this era. Primrose displayed the internal struggle to fight the desperation to please her husband whilst battling with her need to provide Blanche with stability, love and understanding. Primrose demonstrated clearly to the audience that she was in turmoil between her need to protect Blanche and her duty to stay married to Stanley, even when violence ensued. Primrose’s representation of the character was exemplary.

Matthew Barnell gave a solid performance as Stanley Kowalski and his unwavering masculinity, anger, pride and insistence on consistently being “top dog”. The poker scenes were well executed, and the drunken behaviour made it clear to the audience that whatever state Stanley Kowalski was in he always was to be “the man in charge.” With an abundance of stage presence, Barnell ensured Stanley was viewed as man hard to love, even by his friends at times.

The set and staging worked very well in that it was consistent throughout. Impressive that even the bathroom which was a key reference point (and in reality, actually only showed the actors walking in and out of a door) demonstrated how well this was carried out. The various areas on stage were all meaningful to the entire play so it was a positive decision that they appeared to be fluidly utilised. The outside of the apartment of a noisy New Orleans and the inside of the apartment were closely connected which was key to the entire play.

The deterioration of Blanches mental health was also displayed by the clever use of jazz music on the set and Christine Mills on sound designed by director John Cunningham must be congratulated for this. The music continued during Blanches eventual demise but eventually the sounds were almost entirely only experienced by Blanche. It did not go unnoticed that even the sound of the doorbell on set needed to be executed to perfection.

A Streetcar named Desire is a story about types of love alongside fantasy versus the harsh reality of society. It is evident that Director John Cunningham has produced another fabulous piece of theatre and must be congratulated. It is no easy feat to produce such an iconic piece of theatre and “A Streetcar Named Desire” has given a much loved play a very positive nod. A play that is as thrilling to watch as it is uncomfortable, if you are a fan of this classic play by Tennessee Williams it is essential viewing for sure. An excellent production.

Playing until Saturday 20th November tickets available from https://www.altrinchamgarrick.co.uk/shows/a-streetcar-named-desire/

Reviewer: Angela Kelly

Reviewed: 15th November 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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