“I tell what ought to be the truth“
I’ve only been to the Studio at Leicester’s Curve Theatre a couple of times but I’ve never seen it done up this much like a proper theatre with a balcony and all but such it is for Nikolai Foster’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire, his first at the venue where he is now Artistic Director. Tennessee Williams’ classic receives a rather traditional, if youthfully inclined, interpretation here which thus can’t help but pale a little in comparison to Benedict Andrews’ extraordinary reimagining for the Young Vic last year.
The challenges of the space are clear though in the sometimes challenging acoustics of the studio which, combined with an unstinting commitment to heavy accents, poses audibility issues throughout the production. Which is a shame as it really does look good – Michael Taylor’s set design perfectly evokes the faded grandeur and stifling intimacy of the French Quarter and Guy Hoare’s lighting suggests all of its carnivalesque atmosphere with its twinkling fairy lights and sultry red hues.
And where youth is on its side is in showing the intensity of Stella and Stanley’s relationship, emphasising the generational shift that their marriage, represents. The gleaming bright eyes and chiseled musculature of Stewart Clarke’s Stanley is full of swaggering possibility and teamed with Dakota Blue Richards’ poised Stella, resplendent in a nifty pair of slacks and pragmatically forward-thinking, together they infuse sense and sensuality into Williams’ world.
Charlie Brooks has a more difficult job in the iconic role of Blanche DuBois, her flighty portrayal engaging but not quite digging deep enough and so the cracks, when they come, aren’t quite as affecting as they could be (memories of Gillian Anderson are still strong but so too Rachel Weisz and Amanda Drew). Patrick Knowles’ buffoonish Mitch is inspired though, his relative youth positioning him more part of Stanley and Stella’s world despite his obvious affection for Blanche and there’s great work too from Sandy Foster’s rational neighbour Eunice.
The intimacy is occasionally problematic in odd choices like having company members wander in front of key speeches and consistent defiance of the laws of physics in people seeing through walls. But when the production works, it carries all the emotional weight of the exceptional writing, none more so than in the devastating final scene, beautifully realised here in all its appalling guilt.