A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland
25/08/2017 - 16/09/2017
THE SAVAGE POETRY OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ STREETCAR RETURNS TO AUCKLAND FOR SILO’S 20th YEAR!
Set against the gruelling contemporary landscape that is Trump’s America, the devastating masterpiece that changed theatre forever is back for Silo Theatre’s 20th milestone year as A Streetcar Named Desire fires up the mainstage at Q Theatre from August 24 – September 16.
A visitor has arrived in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Crippling debt has sunk the family estate, and a fragile and desperate Blanche DuBois seeks refuge with her sister Stella and her brooding husband Stanley. It’s a sultry, hot summer and the sexual tension and resentment is rising.
Decades after its first controversial staging in 1947, this Pulitzer award winning play continues to be both relevant and shocking. “It’s astonishing to me that 70 years after it first premiered it still has something complex and urgent to say about femininity, masculinity, sexuality and violence,” Says Silo Artistic Director, Sophie Roberts
Whilst staying true to the majestic prose of the great Tennessee Williams Shane Bosher’s epic production of Streetcar will speak directly to the world we live in today. “I want the mythic and the poetic and the real to co-exist by placing it in the here and now and not through the lens of nostalgia. This production will explore how the tender, the sensitive, the delicate are ravished and destroyed by the savage and brutal forces of modern society.” – says Bosher
Silo have assembled an incredible cast to bring what are arguably some of the greatest roles of the modern stage to life for this stunning production. Mia Blake (Angels in America, No.2) will take on the pivotal role of Blanche Dubois alongside Ryan O’Kane (Home & Away, Tangiwai) as the formidable Stanley, Morgana O’Reilly (Neighbors, Housebound, Amadeus) as Stella and Toni Potter (Shortland Street, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) as Eunice. They are joined by Mark Ruka as Mitch (Cellfish, The Patriarch, The Rehearsal) Fasitua Amosa as Steve (Dirty Laundry, Auckland Daze) and Silo newcomer – Arlo Green (Boys). Outrageous Fortune star Nicole Whippy makes her main-stage and Silo debut after a 7-year hiatus, taking on a multitude of roles that showcase her incredible versatility as one of NZ’s most loved acting talents.
Named as an Aucklander of the Year in 2005 by Metro magazine, and four-time Director of the Year by The New Zealand Listener, Shane Bosher is one of New Zealand’s most prolific theatre makers. Bosher is no stranger to tackling ground-breaking and ambitious works and is best known for his incredible portfolio of work completed during his 13-year tenure as artistic director of Silo Theatre including Angels in America, When the Rain Stops Falling and Holding the Man.
A recent public opinion poll out of America rated A Streetcar Named Desire the third most influential play after Angels in America. For those Aucklanders that remember Bosher’s ambitious 2014 production of Angels in America it should be no surprise that he’s returning to Silo to direct one of the greatest contemporary works of our time.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE plays:
Rangatira at Q Theatre, 305 Queen Street
Friday 25 August – Saturday 16 September 2017.
(Preview: Thursday 24 August )
Tuesday & Wednesday, 6.30 pm;
Thursday – Saturday, 7.30pm
Matinee: Saturday 9 September, 1pm
Duration: 3 Hours including interval
Book at qtheatre.co.nz
More info at www.silotheatre.co.nz
Mia Blake: Blanche Dubois
Ryan O’Kane: Stanley
Morgana O’Reilly: Stella
Toni Potter: Eunice
Mark Ruka: Mitch
Fasitua Amosa: Steve
John Verryt: Set
Paul McLaney: Sound/Composer
Sean Lynch: Lighting
Streetcar provides edgy ride
Review by Paul Simei-Barton 28th Aug 2017
Silo celebrates its 20th anniversary with an edgy re-interpretation of the play that established Tennessee Williams as one of the great writers of the modernist era.
Among its many attributes A Streetcar Named Desire has an abundance of richly drawn characters who provide the opportunity and challenge that actors dream of.
Mia Blake seizes the plum role of Blanche with panache and captures the ambiguities and evasions that make the play so enthralling. [More]
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
A well-focussed, dynamic production
Review by Michael Hooper 27th Aug 2017
The pervading ooze of the river is carried as stench on steam from gutters, and rises like gleet from tepid, muddy, downpour puddles. Rickety wooden shutters creak from wooden-laced, second-floor galleries above clunky boardwalks. The soundscape crossfades as you walk Bourbon Street, from a corner sax to a banjo, to a soul-searching gospel-jazz diva or a tinny piano. There are quarrels, coquettes and quartets. The spicy smell of sweat, jambalaya and andouille sausage mixes with the memory of absinthe. The rattles and the bells of streetcars named Desire or Cemeteries are the percussion of the night. Patrons stumble in pairs out of Bourbon Street bar Lafitte in Exile, where Tennessee Williams surely would have visited.
This is my recollection of the Vieux Carré of New Orleans, where Williams’ best-known, and arguably greatest play is set, so I eagerly anticipated a return visit to the French Quarter in the committed and intelligent transport of Silo and Q Theatre. A director will, of course, bend any theatrical work to a new creative concept, but I knew that whatever temporal shift might be chosen by Shane Bosher, the authenticity of the characters and setting would have to remain largely intact to reflect this unique environment. Indeed, the bones and breath of this evocative and visceral American classic remain intact, set in a two-room tenement at Elysian Fields, a street not too far from Royal Street where Williams lived for some time. The room, however, has changed quite a lot from his stage directions – but does it work?
Faithfully following a screenplay by the playwright, the famous Marlon Brando/ Vivien Leigh movie of 1951 brought back three of the original Broadway stage principals, giving the young Brando one of his biggest breaks. It also created headaches for director of both formats, Elia Kazan, when he had to deal with the industry film censors. For the plot’s integrity, violence, rape and seduction were largely allowed be retained from the play, but were handled with care for the screen. The stage previews and some runs had also attracted censorial attention, with a rape scene obscured by a screen in one production. Silo Theatre’s Shane Bosher has no such restrictions and its no-nonsense approach, while removing some of the ambiguity, takes a forthright stance that is less shocking today.
Williams is quite specific in describing both the setting and characters of Streetcar for the realisation of this lurid world, one that could have been coloured by Van Gogh. “You can almost feel the warm breath of the brown river,” he writes. I needed to feel that. So, when the lights of an early summer evening fade up on the Rangatira Auditorium stage to reveal a panoramic but naked apartment of hard surfaces and minimal décor, reminiscent more of a Greyhound station than a squalid tenement, I begin to question John Verryt’s set design and the reasons for the update. Perhaps it is to allow more freedom of movement across the stage, or is simply forged by the wide Q Theatre stage.
Smoke, bright lights aimed at the audience, a roar of sound and a ripple of bluish light across a low-slung proscenium periodically assail us, reminding us a little clumsily of the streetcars and the trains on the nearby Louisville & National Railroad tracks.
Into this steamy, squalid and sexy New Orleans world of young couple Stanley and Stella Kowalski drifts Stella’s sister, Blanche DuBois, fragile and moth-like. She has “lost” the family home, Belle Reve, which tellingly translates as “beautiful dream”. The sad reality of the world she has left behind is far from beautiful and is to be uncovered more with each passing of the streetcars as the moth is dissected.
Living her life in an episodic dream has made it tenable, with the help of “the kindness of strangers”, many of whom she has fallen under. Her heart has been crippled by a former husband in whom she discovered what she saw as a major deficiency. Solace has been found in a plethora of engagements, creating a habit that required further fuel. Putting out the fire with gasoline.
Like Lady Macbeth, her preoccupation with cleansing keeps the bathroom a busy place and Q Theatre’s delight in running water on stage suitably complies. Her trunk is spilled out onto the floor as a handy wardrobe department, where the unpacking of her life is messy but mesmerising as Stanley goads her from despair into madness.
An early reviewer described Blanche as “nymphomaniac-alcoholic-neurotic”. This is a Gloria Swanson or even a Bette Davis type of role, with its descent into madness also epitomised by the Glenn Close performance of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Seldom off stage, Mia Blake as Blanche takes formidable command of virtually a library of lines, many of them only half-finished thoughts and delusions that litter the loosely-bound, yellowing pages of her life. Miss Blake paces her performance carefully and stops short of a melodramatic dissolution of reason.
The dialects of New Orleans are more complex than the typical southern drawl, with both pronunciation and vocabulary affected by the braided background of Arcadian (Cajun), more East Coast (Jewish) influences, and French and Spanish occupations. In the heat and humidity they are taffee-pulled into a languor and lyrical rhythm that is distinctive and demanding to duplicate. Unfortunately Miss Blake’s brave attempt at this gumbo of accents lacks the ockra to bind it, and a stew of flat Kiwi vowels, an attempted New Orleans drawl and a dash of Suzanne Paul remain an irritant through the play.
She is not unique in slipping off the rails in this respect. Mark Ruka, cast unconvincingly as Mitch, her slow-on-the-uptake ‘romantic’ connection, suffers from lingo in limbo.
Fortunately the rough, lusty mechanic Stanley, played by a fit Ryan O’Kane, can take some refuge in his character’s overarching working class dialogue, and his almost Bronx-laced language sits more comfortably. Bellicose and bullish, Stanley is prescribed as having “animal joy” and “the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens”. Williams has him sizing up women up at a glance, “with crude images flashing into his mind and determining the way he smiles at them.” Ryan O’Kane encompasses all of this, with a wide, lurid grin revealing his character’s salacious thoughts. He erupts physically when triggered, but melts on cue into a naïve tenderness charged with desire.
Stella, his bovine wife, is in the assured hands of Morgana O’Reilly who steps up to the physicality of Stanley and delivers a solid performance.
The play is gilded by ‘atmosphere personnel’ that are cinematic in their cameos: the upstairs couple, a tamale seller, the poker players and neighbours. Some of these work well – the air guitar moves of upstairs neighbour Eunice (Toni Potter) and the flower seller (Nicole Whippy), who wanders out as the harbinger of disaster with the call “Flores para los muertos”. Others are less convincing, such as the wandering on of a ghost from the past, the inclusion of ipads, selfies and cellphones (now almost obligatory for directors seeking cheap relevance to a modern audience), Stella’s track pants, and the use of a small transistor radio (which in the script is supposed to have valves or “tubes”). However as Blanche keeps poignantly singing from the shower, “It’s a Barnum and Bailey world, phony as it can be”, so we shouldn’t press the case for realism.
“An hour isn’t an hour,” says Blanche, “but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands.” Three hours (including intermission) over two long acts could seem a long time in the theatre today, but this well-focussed, dynamic production never flags in audience engagement, still respecting that Tennessee Williams does need space to play with people and words for the task of lifting a tawdry and turbulent reality into the realm of poetry and brittle, brutal human fragility, at a pace predicated by the heat, humidity and swooning rhythm of the south. It is gritty but gracious, aggression balanced with acquiescence, physicality with fantasy.
The ride is a bit bumpy and unadorned, but an admirable adherence to the tracks of Tennessee Williams’ dialogue guides the production. On balance, it faithfully delivers this little piece of eternity, this distillation of human weakness and illusion, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Streetcar Named Desire, to its destination.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
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