Oxford Playhouse Theatre Poster
On the 11th of May, a group of Year 12 English and Year 13 Drama students were transported to steamy New Orleans by the English Touring Theatre’s brilliant new production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Described as ‘brutal’ and ‘riveting’ by ‘The Stage’, this production pulled no punches in its depiction of a ruthless ‘dog-eat-dog’ world and the lengths to which its inhabitants are prepared to go in order to survive, or to cling on to power.
Kelly Gough, as Blanche, perfectly conveyed that character’s tragic blend of fragility and self-advertisement, encapsulated by the disco glitterball which Blanche asks to be hung up on the light-bulb. In the original text, this was a ‘coloured paper lantern’, but the production was bold in its adapting of Williams’ symbolism. In a similar way, the polka music which haunts Blanche was replaced by Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ – which may not sound convincing on paper but was wonderfully evocative of a dream turned sour. The final scene, boldly deviating from – but still very much in the spirit of – Tennessee Williams’ punctilious stage directions, was delivered in a stripped-down, mechanical way in a half-dismantled set. While some students unfamiliar with the play found this move into full expressionism a little disorienting, for the rest it was a stark reflection of just how grotesque and unreal the world has revealed itself to be to a traumatized Blanche.
This was an unforgettable night at the theatre, and will no doubt inform next year’s English coursework essays on Post-War American Drama.