The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

22/02/2020 - 14/03/2020

Production Details


The sweltering heat of New Orleans is coming to Christchurch with the arrival of classic theatrical drama, A Streetcar Named Desire.

Running at The Court Theatre from February 22, audiences can expect a vivid and enthralling production from this Pulitzer Prize winning drama.

“It’s a masterpiece of 20th Century theatre,” says director Melanie Luckman, a previous Associate Director at The Court who most recently helmed In the Next Room, or the vibrator play.

“This is a dynamic, sexy and dangerous story of a woman fighting with all her might to stay alive in a world that’s out to get her,” Luckman explains.

The story follows jaded Southern belle Blanche DuBois as she arrives at her sister’s house in New Orleans with nowhere else to go. Tensions soon rise between her and her sister’s husband, Stanley, a character made famous by Marlon Brando’s portrayal in the Oscar winning film adaptation of the play.

“Like all great poetic masterpieces, the characters are heightened versions of ourselves,” says Luckman. “They all have major flaws but are so vivacious, burning with life and desire, that they are immensely appealing to watch.”

The actors taking on these classic characters include Claire Dougan as Blanche (Westside); Chris Tempest as Stanley (Shortland Street) and Amy Straker as Stella (The Pink Hammer). This trio are joined by a talented ensemble, including Matt Hudson, Hillary Moulder, Tom Eason, Fergus Inder, Isaac Pawson, Anita Mapukata, Adam Brookfield and Hester Ullyart.

These actors will be stepping back in time to 1947, taking audiences to a run-down and dangerous post-war New Orleans.

“The play is set before the boomtime of the 1950s,” explains Set and Properties Designer Julian Southgate. “The community is still poor and hasn’t rebuild. The men have just come back from World War II and they’re not adjusting that well to civilian life. No one is.”

Talking about what inspired his design, Southgate says, “the descriptions by the author are so evocative and poetic in the script. They’re unusual and quite strange – so I thought I’d try and bring in some of the poetic strangeness into the set design itself.”

For Luckman, “the gift of Streetcar is perfectly written dialogue that jumps off the page to meet you. The challenge is being brave enough to dive underneath the text and play the complex characters and relationships that are there to be mined. They don’t call Blanche the female Hamlet for nothing!”

Talking about why A Streetcar Named Desire has such a draw for audiences almost 75 years later, Luckman says, “The story is a big fat warning about what happens when you take away kindness and community. That’s pretty relevant to me.”

A Streetcar Named Desire
Show Sponsor: The Breeze
The Court Theatre’s mainstage
22 February – 14 March 2020
Show Times
Monday & Thursday:  6:30pm
●Tue/Wed/Fri/Sat:  7:30pm
Forum:  6:30pm Monday 24 February
Matinee:  2:00pm Saturday 7 March
Ticket Prices
Adult:  $56 – $64
Senior (65+):  $49 – $57
Group (6+):  $49 – $57
Supporter:  $47 – $54
Child (under 18):  $27 – $30
30 Below (limited numbers):  $30
Bookings: phone 03 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz

Blanche:  Claire Dougan
Stanley:  Chris Tempest
Stella:  Amy Straker
Mitch:  Matt Hudson
Eunice:  Hillary Moulder
Steve:  Tom Eason 
Pablo:  Fergus Inder
Young Man:  Isaac Pawson
Young Woman:  Anita Mapukata
Doctor:  Adam Brookfield 
Flower Seller/Matron:  Hester Ullyart

Director:  Melanie Luckman
Set Designer:  Julian Southgate
Costume Designer:  Tony De Goldi
Lighting Designer:  Giles Tanner
Sound Designer:  Matt Short
Stage Manager:  Jo Bunce

Theatre ,

Riveting, compelling

Review by Christopher Moore 24th Feb 2020

In December 1947, the New Yorker‘s theatre reviewer, Wolcott Gibbs, reviewed the opening night of a new play called A Streetcar named Desire.

“A fine and deeply disturbing play, almost faultless in the physical details of its production and the quality of its acting … a brilliant, implacable play,” Gibbs, a man not known for indulging in superlatives, wrote.  

His review came to mind during the opening night of the Court Theatre’s new production of A Streetcar named Desire, simply for the reason that he could have been commenting on director Melanie Luckman’s approach to the play, helped by an outstanding cast all of whom performed this challenging and daunting play with sensitivity and intelligence. [More]


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Fresh exploration gives pause for thought

Review by Lindsay Clark 23rd Feb 2020

From its debut performance in 1947, Tennessee Williams’ startling and insightful drama has provoked debate about the often painful co-existence of whatever we define as reality on one hand and, on the other, the desire for something finer and more beautiful. Each reinterpretation of the original will meet the perceptions of its audience half way and each has the superb material of Williams’ poetic vision and vivid characters to draw on. The current Court Theatre production sets its own stamp on the play, without generating for me that best of thrills, the electric hair on the back of the neck sensation.  

The immediate creation of a faded and run down New Orleans apartment, all within the comfortable world of an audience, is the challenge for set designer and properties manager, Julian Southgate. With authentic detail everywhere and classic Southern blues softly in the background, we are safely transported. On the ironwork stairs to the upper dwelling, local women perch and natter. It is a seedy but solid world, going about its business.

Into this world steps Blanche DuBois, sweetly bewildered at the address and primly out of place in her fresh costume and pretty shoes. She has come to stay with Stella, her sister, while she takes leave from her teaching position in another town. Only Stella’s husband, mechanic Stanley Kowalski, has not been filled in. Inevitably there will be tensions as the triangle thus formed is wrenched by events and revelations, leading to a desperate and tragic climax for the pale figure of those first moments.

Blanche turns out to have complex motives and needs, not to mention a history which has led her far from the genteel plantation upbringing she shared with Stella. Stanley, in contrast, has a brutal simplicity about his approach to life, where ultimately the power of the fist can settle any dispute. Between them, Stella, a slave to love for both, tries to keep some sort of peace as she waits for the birth of her child.

As Stanley learns more about Blanche and her history, his own ways of dealing with the situation become more and more desperate and cruel, including revealing the past Blanche is trying so hard to escape, thus setting up her final retreat from reality.

Motif and symbol underscore the text at every turn. Blanche responds to ugliness in any form by covering it up or shielding it from the searching light of fact. The production elements (Giles Tanner for lighting and Tony De Goldi for costume) work to this purpose though, for me, the ravaged fragility of Blanche is not well served, for example, by her often worn silky scarlet robe. She does at some stage refer to herself as a tarantula and it may be that this is the intended link, highlighting her duplicity.

Sound design from Matt Short includes music to cover transitions between scenes which, to our eyes, used to the fluidity of film, may seem to interrupt the rhythm and onward drive of the piece. I am not able to justify the drums which sometimes replace blues or jazz for this purpose but again, such is the richness of Williams’ integrating text and action that I may be missing a clue.

As the sensation of the production reaches almost melodramatic intensity towards the end, I ask myself if the text is allowed its space.

Melanie Luckman’s cast serves her well, however, with strong performances from Tom Eason as Mitch (would-be suitor for Blanche), Hillary Moulder as neighbour Eunice, Chris Tempest as the violent and conflicted Stanley and Amy Straker as a resolute and loyal Stella. The whole is lifted into significant theatre by Claire Dougan as the refugee Blanche. She brings consistency and clarity to a demanding role, itself based on shadowy evasion.

As a fresh exploration of what the text has to offer in 2020, when a lack of general tolerance and when violence – especially towards women – seem indeed to be going the way of the brutes, the production gives pause for thought: always a good thing.


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