Three quarters of a century on, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire lives through the kindness of stagers. Two separate productions are scheduled for Sydney this year, the first of which is now presenting at the Genesian Theatre Company in their gorgeous Kent Street space.
Desire, delusion, and dipsomania are at the core of this iconic play, with delusion being both carriage and destination.
Georgia Britt embodies Blanche de Bois, a nervously boastful faded beauty living in a leisured past, her defence against actuality a sort of aristocratic amnesia. Haunted by the suicide of her gay, young husband, decades ago, Blanche is vain, self-deceiving and filled with an undisguised disdain for her brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, whom she variously compares to an ape and swine, regarding herself, and her sister, Stella, to be the pearls strewn before him.
So steeped in self-delusion that when she urges Stella “to pull yourself together and face facts” she is arrogantly unaware of the switchback irony when later she utters “I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don't tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth. And if that's sinful, then let me be damned for it!”
Riley McNamara is a sulky Stanley, sneering and self serving, a gossip monger determined to sabotage sisterly bonds, a needy man baby rather than a baleful brute. Ali Bendall plays Stella, sexually enslaved to Stanley, not as an indentured sex doll but happy play mate, maternal instincts aroused on all fronts.
Matthew Doherty exerts an earnest pathos as Mitch, Stanley’s work colleague who is snatched from the precipice of proposing to Blanche by the pernicious, prevalent patriarchal moral judgement.
The final lines of Blanche – “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” – is oft quoted, and become synonymous in cloying cliché, but it is her speech to Mitch after his swelter of accusation carries the coruscating sting:
“Yes, I had many intimacies with strangers ... intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with ... I think it was panic, just panic, that drove me from one to another, hunting for some protection ... here and there, in the most unlikely places even, at last, in a seventeen-year-old boy ... somebody wrote the superintendent about it – "This woman is morally unfit for her position!" My youth was suddenly gone up the water-spout, and I met you. You said you needed somebody. Well, I needed somebody, too. I thanked God for you, because you seemed to be gentle, a cleft in the rock of the world that I could hide in! But I guess I was asking, hoping too much!”
Directed by Tom Massey, (who makes a surprise, understated cameo), this production of A Streetcar Named Desire boasts a terrific set designed by Soham Apte, with evocative Costume Design by Susan Carveth, while polka and pistol, the haunting refrain that plays inside Blanche’s brain on the page is given audible substance from Sound Designer, Michael Schell.
Genesian Theatre presents
A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams
Director Tom Massey
Venue: Genesian Theatre Company | 420 Kent Street, Sydney NSW
Dates: 15 Apr – 7 May 2023