Scottish Ballet : A Streetcar Named Desire

Eve Mutso and Tama Barry in a publicity image for A Streetcar Named Desire. Β© Graham Wylie.

Eve Mutso and Tama Barry in a publicity image for A Streetcar Named Desire. Β© Graham Wylie.

I’m going to open this review by telling you to go here and immediately book yourself a ticket for Scottish Ballet’s production of Streetcar. Trust me, you won’t regret it, and it’s only on until Saturday 21st, so you need to be speedy in order to catch it before its U.S.-bound.

Ok. Tickets bought? Good. Spoilers will probably abound in this review, so if you don’t want them, stop reading now and just go see it.

This is, hands down, the best ballet I have ever seen. I’ve seen a few, and I’ve seen Scottish Ballet before, but this was just… something else.

Streetcar is one of my favourite plays; and the film gives me very conflicted feelings about Marlon Brando in a vest (so beautiful, but such a bastard, but *so* beautiful), and I’ve been looking forward to Scottish Ballet’s adaptation of it since I spotted it in the Festival Theatre’s brochure about a year ago. So much of the tension in the play relies on the dialogue, and depends on the audience piecing together Blanche’s past from snippets of things that are said, and I was intrigued to see how that would translate into ballet. (I should point out that the ballet isn’t totally silent; there’s one word, and I’ll let you guess what it is!)
Suffice to say, nothing at all is lost from the play. The addition of an opening scene, showing Blanche’s back story, perfectly sets up how difficult her life has been; we see her as a young, innocent, Southern girl caught up in a whirlwind romance, her marriage to Alan, the confusion of finding him with another man and then his suicide, precursor to the loss of her entire family and the beautiful mansion at Belle Reve, and then Blanche’s descent into alcoholism and prostitution. After seducing a young boy at the hotel who reminds her of Alan, she is forced to leave, and goes to stay with her sister, Stella, in New Orleans. I was crying after about ten minutes.

Eve Mutso was incredible as Blanche, and perfect opposite Erik Cavalleri’s Stanley. We were lucky enough to meet Luciana Ravizzi before the show, who told us that after performing as Blanche, she has to stay away from Stanley for a while and be on her own. She said that she usually gets very upset on stage by the end, and I can completely see why. Although Blanche is not a technically difficult role, Luci told us that she is exhausted after dancing her, far more than the physical pain she is in after something like the Nutcracker. I’d imagine that dancing Stanley must have much the same reaction; he was broody and menacing from the very first scene, and the tension on stage was incredible.

The staging itself is very well done. It’s very stripped back, with just blocks which move around the stage — first forming the background of Belle Reve, then it’s rubble, then the bustle of New Orleans and its streetcars and bars — and bare lightbulbs. The loss of Belle Reve is spectacularly delivered, and the lighting throughout is done to reflect the mood of the scene. Another layer of tension is added in the music, with a live orchestra performing Peter Salem‘s bluesy, jazzy score. Snippets of Ella Fitzgerald’s Paper Moon underscore Blanche’s state of mind, and the music wavers from New Orleans jazz to awful, perfect silence.

I’m quite tempted to go and see it again.

A Streetcar Named Desire is on at the Festival Theatre until 21st March, then at Sadlers Wells from 31st March to 2nd April, before going to the US.

Disclaimer: I was invited to see Streetcar in return for this review, but all opinions and writing are my own, and not influenced in any way. Thank you so much to Scottish Ballet for inviting me!


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