It’s mean, moody and shot full of sex

Rosie Beattie as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, presented by Gallery Players at the Sir

Rosie Beattie as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, presented by Gallery Players at the Sir John Mills Theatre - Credit: Archant

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Gallery Players at the Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich until November 7

This show is mean, moody and shot full of sex, most of it unspoken but a little of it quite explicit. Blanche and Stanley are at war verbally from the moment they meet but we know from the way they look at each that their relationship must eventually explode in an entirely different manner.

She flaunts her posh background, talks of poetry and her choice of words is calculated to rouse the worst in Stanley. Blanche calls him common and says that everything about him, his voice, the way he eats, drinks and moves is like an animal. She talks of looking for a bit of magic in life but is there really a bit of animal lurking in her?

The family plantation has gone belly-up, Blanche has had a bit of breakdown and says she has taken a leave of absence from her teaching job to come and stay with her sister Stella and Stanley her husband. He is a violent bully who must be king of his domain and he delights in putting people down, even his poker-night mate Mitch.

Stanley and Mitch served together in WW2 and Mitch takes a shine to Blanche to become perhaps her only remaining route to some kind of safety and sanity, because she is haunted, literally, to the edge of reason by her guilt over the death of her young husband years ago, the one person she has really loved. He committed suicide when she caught him with his gay lover.

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Suspecting that Blanche may have made money from the estate that she is keeping from Stella, Stanley digs into Blanche’s background and discovers she was fired from her job for having an affair with a 17-year-old boy and has since led what appears to have been a fairly raunchy sort of existence. That’s just the ammunition he needs to light the fuse that will wreck more than one life.

This Gallery Players production is enormously helped by a very atmospheric set which is lit brilliantly and by some wonderfully evocative guitar music and songs that carry us comfortably back to a shabby apartment in late 1940s New Orleans.

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Rosie Beattie makes a good job of Blanche and has a very moving scene with Michael Cook’s Mitch when tells him about the death of her husband and Liam Gregory is a powerful, volatile Stanley with moments of frightening realism. Molly Scurrell plays Stella, a nice woman who, in the end, will sacrifice her sister for the love of a bad man.

Oliver Ward has the difficult, voiceless, shadowing role of Blanche’s dead husband and there are solid support performances from Lorena Cenci, Michelle Buckley, Paul Mann and Tom Hitchcock.

David Henshall

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