A Streetcar named Desire (Play) : A Review

At the NCPA Mumbai, I attended a live broadcast of “A Streetcar named Desire” courtesy Young Vic and if I had to summarize my experience in two words, they  would be mesmerisingly harrowing.

The NCPA  building at Nariman Point is in itself always a pleasure to be in. I love watching plays and have watched a few at their experimental theater but this was my first time in the Godrej Dance theater and I loved every bit of my three hours spent there. I did also this time sample the famous NCPA cold coffee and was delighted in its thick, icy flavour.

NCPA, Mumbai

Now away from my foodie obsessions and coming to reviewing the actual play, the first and the most striking thing about it was the revolving stage on which the entire play was performed adding a fresh innovation to this classic Pulitzer-prize winning drama. The speed with which the stage moved cleverly increased as the plot thickened and add a wonderful drama to the experience. At the beginning I was not entirely sure I would enjoy a ‘screened’ version of a play but I was pleasantly surprised. The music complemented the experienced and filled in the gaps left open by the story.

The revolving stage at the Young Vic, London 1
The revolving stage at the Young Vic, London 2

The play begins with Blanche DuBois arriving at the doorstep of her sister Stella Kowalski and husband Stanley Kowalski under suspicious circumstances and what follows is a gradual revelation of the various secrets and skeletons in the closet in the three main characters lives over the course of her ‘over’stay.

The timelessly dark character of Blanche DuBois was played by the immensely talented Gillian Anderson and to say she outshone herself and stretched the boundaries of the character assigned to her would not be an understatement. She drew me in slowly and seductively into her downward spiraling sense of reality egged on by her increasing alcoholism and pitiful sense of grandeur. Her fragile ego and shamelessly immoral ways evoke a heady mix of pity and contempt. Blanche will remain for me one of the most memorable characters I have witnessed in theater.

The ‘primal’ Stanley Kowalski, husband of Blanche’s sister Stella played by Ben Foster is at once at the receiving end of Blanche’s sexual interest as well as disgust. The twisted dynamics of their relationship bring that furrow to the brow of the viewers and left me with mixed feelings.

Stella Kowalski, played by Vanessa Kirby is the most endearing of the three main characters and elicits a strong feeling pf protectiveness with her vulnerability and raw need for her husband. Her passion for him which demands her to bear his physical abuse  and tolerate his shenanigans is compelling.

The play ends with Blanche been taken away to a mental asylum after her degeneration is irrevocably complete and her haunting last words to the doctor who is taking her away: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

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