Review Roundup: Young Vic's A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

Review Roundup: Young Vic's A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE just opened at the Young Vic and is booking to Friday, September 19, 2014. Gillian Anderson is Blanche DuBois, Ben Foster is Stanley and Vanessa Kirby is Stella in Tennessee Williams' timeless masterpiece. As Blanche's fragile world crumbles, she turns to her sister Stella for solace - but her downward spiral brings her face to face with the brutal, unforgiving Stanley Kowalski. Visionary director Benedict Andrews returns to the Young Vic following his Critics' Circle Award-winning Three Sisters.

Also in the cast are Clare Burt, Lachele Carl, Branwell Donaghey, Otto Farrant, Nicholas Gecks, Troy Glasgow, Stephanie Jacob, Corey Johnson and Claire Prempeh. The production features design by Magda Willi, costume by Victoria Behr, sound by Paul Arditti, music by Alex Baranowski and light by Jon Clark.

This production of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE will be seen by cinema audiences worldwide when NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE broadcasts the production live on Tuesday, September 16, 2014, with varying dates internationally and encore screenings to follow. For more information, go to

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Charles Spencer, Telegraph: The iconoclastic director Benedict Andrews is having none of that. The action is set in present day New Orleans, with great blasts of tumultuous rock music by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Chris Isaak. The staging is equally compelling, with all the action taking place in a sleek modern apartment, which revolves almost constantly throughout the play so that our view of what's happening keeps taking on fresh perspectives. We see everything from the kitchen to the lavatory in this cramped flat where resentments simmer in the New Orleans heat until they boil over in rage, terror, guilt and mental breakdown.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: I don't find every aspect of Andrews's production plausible. The updating to the present sits oddly with a play that talks of period bandleaders like Xavier Cugat and where the feel is of an America on the verge of postwar economic expansion. In the urge to make the play seem urgent and immediate some of Williams's poetry and humour gets lost. And it seems strange that Blanche should say of the Kowalski home that "only Mr Edgar Allan Poe could do it justice" when it looks as white and pristine as a hospital ward.

Paul Taylor, Independent: At the end of the end of the three-and-half hour duration, Gillian Anderson's shatteringly powerful and persuasive Blanche, mad now and being hoodwinked to asylum, makes an unhurried, stately progress round the perimeter of the space on the arm of the doctor, and she gazes upwards with a fragile smile, as if graciously acknowledging the wonder and the gallantry of the universe.

Kate Bassett, The Times: The Young Vic has a penchant for portraying women in a spin. Not so long ago it scored a big hit with its staging of Ibsen's A Doll's Housewhere, sporadically, the flustered heroine's abode went into an expressionistic, 360-degree whirl. Now hotshot experimentalist Benedict Andrews directs a stellar, modern-dress production of A Streetcar Named Desire with Gillian Anderson playing Blanche DuBois, the affectedly genteel but vampish Southern belle who fetches up at her long-estranged sibling Stella's mrital digs in a rough quarter of New Orleans.

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: This is a gripping and disorientating production, which makes us work hard but allows Williams's play to feel bracingly fresh. It captures his highly perfumed lyrical style while evoking the raw energy of desire. In the lead Anderson is simply unmissable, and the direction is admirably thoughtful and bold. For those who can't make it along to the Young Vic, the show will be broadcast to more than 550 UK cinemas on September 16 as part of theNational Theatre's Live programme.

Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter: A Streetcar Named Desire remains an American classic, and Andrews rightly approaches it with gravitas and grit. But in a world where feminism, gay rights and post-modern parodies on The Simpsons are now ingrained in popular culture, the feverish netherworld that Williams depicts perhaps inevitably feels more like shrill melodrama than groundbreaking drama. Fortunately, Blanche is the saving grace here, a hugely alluring car-crash heroine in any decade. Top marks to Anderson, who gives great diva and appears to enjoy every minute of it.

Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage: "I don't want realism, I want magic," is Blanche's war-cry, and it's the poignant grubbiness of their conjunction that marks out this groundbreaking play. It's modern, mythic and hot all at the same time, and Williams's language melds poetry with base idiom, explosive argument with the jazz riffs of the emotionally, as well as materially, dispossessed. And that's what this production honours fully.

David Benedict, Variety: Two trajectories determine Benedict Andrews' in-the-round production of "A Streetcar Named Desire": the tragic arc of Gillian Anderson's remarkably vivid Blanche, and that of the near-permanently revolving set. The latter creates a striking metaphor for Blanche's whirling state of mind, but as it slowly wheels round you sense the two are somewhat at war. Although the movement's centrifugal force spins Blanche's thoughts outward, what's missing is centripetal energy, the inward force that would focus audiences on dramatic details. A great production makes audiences feel complicit in Blanche's story; here we're merely impressed voyeurs.

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Benedict Andrews directs Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby in the Young Vic and Joshua Andrews co-production of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, to be broadcast from the Young Vic to cinemas by National Theatre Live on 16 September at 7pm.

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