In its seventy five years since premiering, Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize winning play has inspired several ballets and an opera, as well as the 'definitive' screen version, staring Marlon Brando and Vivian Leigh in the staring roles. With their current production of A Streetcar Named Desire, Scottish Ballet have added to these ranks a production of vigour, beauty and powerful emotion in a theatrically vivid, potent contemporary style.
Williams' sultry, mysterious Southern Gothic; the tale of a destitute Louisiana heiress joining her sister Stella and her new husband Stanley in 1940s New Orleans. Blanche's mirky past and the death of her husband Alan haunt our heroine as she is taken by bouts of introspective fantasy and heavy drinking.
Those only familiar with the classic film may not recognise the fleshed out backstory however the result is something more abstract yet somehow more brutal. Blanche's wedding and and Alan's gay affair and resultant death for example have an involving, touching sensitivity. The duet between Alan (Victor Zarello) and his lover (Luke Ahmet) was graceful yet powerful and passionately convincing. This was made all the more affecting when compared to the tough, guarded persona of Stanley (Tama Barry) in later scenes, where a bloodstained Alan haunts his ex-wife.
As relatives fade around Blanche she is left to look after her country manor which crumbles on the stage, collapsing into concrete blocks which then provide much of the scenery of New Orleans; both a poignant metaphor and a convincing aesthetic of austere tactility. Dramatic moments were effortlessly interwoven with the dance in a fluidity uncommon to most modern ballet. This was most likely down to the influence of Director Nancy Meckler, working alongside choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Peter Salem's jazz tinged score also helped the piece to ooze its' sensual as well as its violent, unwieldy sensibility, and moved with the choreography to create something fresh and evocative. Stanley and Blache's rough, stifling duet is eventually played out in more graphic nature than we may have expected, lending the more muted lead up to Blache's rape all the more uncomfortable to watch.
Streetcar is an absolute triumph for a company that in recent productions have punched well below their weight. Sometimes thoughtful and subtle, others brash and disturbing, always gorgeous and enlivening to watch, this is narrative contemporary ballet at its' best.