Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Weisz Mesmerises in Magical Streetcar; FIRST NIGHT

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Weisz Mesmerises in Magical Streetcar; FIRST NIGHT

Article excerpt

Byline: HENRY HITCHINGS

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE Donmar Warehouse

WHEN Tennessee Williams's masterpiece made its London debut 60 years ago, the Public Morality Council denounced it as "salacious and pornographic". Not coincidentally, the production was booked solid for nine months.

While no one could convict Rob Ashford's smartly conceived revival of being lewd, it does awaken the brilliant nastiness of Williams's writing.

At its heart is Rachel Weisz, whose performance as Blanche DuBois -- a boozy tangle of disappointments, pretensions and fragile charm -- proves mesmerising.

Set in raffishly rickety Forties New Orleans, the play depicts the collision of Blanche's archaic Southern refinements and her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski's crude, industrial view of life.

Episodic and morally ambiguous, it is charged with an intensity that seems almost schizophrenic.

Richly portraying the tension between dark male impulses and feminine poise, it shows as well how vulgarity can bludgeon finer feelings into submission. Above all, it limns the destructiveness of desire.

Blanche arrives on a streetcar at the cramped apartment in Elysian Fields that her sister Stella shares with Stanley.

The vehicle's name, Desire, appears a symptom of the city's viscous sensuality, and the "collapsible" bed in which she is expected to sleep symbolises the intriguingly uncertain social and sexual boundaries of her world -- which are soon aggressively policed by Stanley.

Adam Cork's music and atmospheric sound season the drama, and Christopher Oram's emphatically vertical design, complete with an effective if worryingly wobbly spiral staircase, makes clever use of the Donmar's intimate space.

Over three hours the drama's concentration is powerfully sustained. Williams's characters are voluptuaries with injured souls, and his dialogue contains moments of anguished lyricism. …

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