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A Streetcar Named Desire with Gillian Anderson - fans of X Files shouldn’t miss it

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  • A Streetcar Named Desire with Gillian Anderson - fans of X Files shouldn’t miss it

    Just an alert that the National Theater is streaming a production of The Young Vic’s A Streetcar Named Desire - one of the best plays of the 20th century - with Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois, Ben Foster as Stanley Kowalski, Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret in The Crown) as Stella and Corey Johnson as Mitch. The production sold out faster than any other show by the Young Vic.

    It’s a masterful play, of course - a very American play set in New Orleans - and it made Brando a household name both on stage and screen as the working class Stanley who is dead set against his wife’s sister staying with them in their home. . I saw this revival a few years ago in the theaters and thought Anderson was incredible as the fragile Southern belle with a tenuous grip on reality who is utterly shattered by the story’s end.

    Not recommended for kids, though. It’s quite heavy and sexual and involves violence and rape. It’s streaming through May 28th and I recommend it to anyone who’s in the mood for intense drama and some witty, knife-deep Gothic-Southern-Baroque dialogue by the great Tennessee Williams!

    Link here:
    Last edited by American Aurora; 25-05-20, 06:51 PM.

  • #2
    I have been watching Gillian Anderson in her UK TV shows such as The Fall and Sex Education. She is bloody brilliant!


    • #3
      Thanks for this I really hope to find time to see it.


      • #4
        That was a long one to try to stay up for at the end of a really busy day but I'm glad I did. We've literally just finished watching this and it really was fantastic. I didn't know the story at all so I had no expectations and was a bit taken aback by how bleak it was. Blanche Dubois is a completely fascinating character. The need and desire to live in fantasy to avoid reality, the coping mechanism of it, sits so interestingly alongside the need to construct boundaries and roles. The responses to others is within the wish to construct boundaries and the judgemental attitude she expresses of others right from the start in her attempts to cover what she fears of how others perceive her. The social divides and the abusive relationship her sister is in, the differences between the two sisters, all add intriguing elements that make it so rich. And Gillian Anderson was truly incredible. Thank you for recommending this.


        • #5
          Stoney, I’m glad you were able to see it! The play is still shocking today - imagine how people felt in 1947!

          Tennessee Williams wrote based on personal experience - a closeted timid boy, he grew up in a Southern household with a brutal, alcoholic father, an overbearing mother who often lapsed into hysterical fits and an adored sister who suffered from schizophrenia and was lobotomized while he was away in college - for which he never forgave himself. A great deal of his plays are about madness and sexual brutality - his first play, The Glass Menagerie, is somewhat autobiographical in its tale of a young girl unable to function in society as her mother desperately tries to push her into some kind of normality. Williams was brutalized by his father - there’s a lot of himself and his sister in Blanche DuBois and his father in Stanley.

          You are right on the money in your analysis of the themes of the show. Blanche’s entire persona is a coping mechanism to deal with the brutality of the world as represented by the Chinese lantern over the bare light bulb.. Her inevitable downfall at the end representative of the ways in which reality crushes us all, obliterating dreams through the social divides you point out. Being a gay man in 40s America meant living a double life and Blanche represents a part of that - but so does Stanley when he is unable to articulate his feelings in a hyper-masculine world and screams for Stella as his only real outlet for his emotions, sex replacing true intimacy just as it does for Blanche.

          What’s brilliant about the play is that Blanche is just as responsible for crushing dreams as Stanley, just as cruel and judgmental as he is. It’s implied that her madness originates in the suicide of her young husband when she catches him with another man and rejects him. The cruelty that she recoils from in Stanley is a mirror into her own soul. A lot of this has to do with Williams’ feelings about his sister - he suffered from extreme guilt that he was never able to save her and treated her dismissively before she was committed. For the rest of his life, he paid for her care. Everyone is both brutalized and brutalizer in his plays, victims and perpetrators. Women and men fight back against societal expectations and their own desires - and it almost always leads to tragedy.

          If you ever see the movie of Streetcar, Vivian Leigh gives an amazing, Oscar-winning performance. But it’s Brando who makes the greatest impression - his infamous screams of “Stella” became so famous, they were endlessly parodied as extreme method acting. But he is astonishingly effective and his performance in the original play (opposite Jessica Tandy) was an explosion in a Broadway industry dominated by musicals and drawing room comedies. Interestingly, the show was even more successful in the West End when Laurence Olivier directed his wife as Blanche - which apparently contributed to her own personal destruction as Vivian Leigh slowly descended into a kind of real madness. Gillian Anderson said that the role was so demanding that she was “hanging onto reality by a thread.” It’s a great role - but tough because an actress has to dig so deep into madness..

          But for me, it’s Williams’ dialogue that makes the play - so many great lines that crackle and snap. I love American Southern Gothic and he’s right up there with Faulkner and Harper Lee as far as I’m concerned.
          Last edited by American Aurora; 28-05-20, 06:28 PM.


          • #6
            That's really interesting to hear some of the background influences in the writing. The aspect of perpetrator and victim was particularly interesting with Blanche I thought. It's present from the beginning in how her condemnation of Stanley and her sister's living conditions, her criticisms and comments on him, play into the bad atmosphere between them. That she has lost their ancestral home and is so defensive and attacks at the barest idea of blame or criticism for that, but expresses such disdain for the situation her sister has ended up in. And I think it's really underlined as a an intentional element to consider when there is the suggestion that she had an affair with a student and was also abusive, unfit for her professional role. And it's hard to believe everything she says is even just purely careless as there appears to possibly be deliberate cruelty in some of what she says to her sister as she speaks her mind without care. Especially in that scene where Stanley overhears her cutting comments about him. But how it all clearly feeds from this sadness she feels, a real loneliness and personal despair is always in the background. And there's the attack of course. I thought her sorrow and really small comment accepting it's probably right she was unfit for her job, contrasted so hugely to the loud constant chatter in the way she normally expresses herself, it was a fantastic moment. She's just so broken, it's actually pretty devastating viewing. I take your point about how shocking it would have been to a 40s viewer.

            I can completely see why playing such a descent into madness would be draining. And such an incredible number of lines to learn. I don't know how it literally sits against an average lead role in a play, but it struck me how much Blanche talks and how fast all the time. It seemed such a demanding role to take on. I'd definitely be interested in seeing the movie at some point.


            • #7

              If you can, see the film at some point. Even in 1951, it was shocking and a lot of it was censored. Still, it introduced Marlon Brando and gave Vivian Leigh her second Oscar and it’s brilliantly directed by the original stage director, Elia Kazan.


              And here’s the famous “Stella!”scene that pretty much made Brando’s career with the great Kim Hunter as Stella - no one had seen anything that sexual before in a Hollywood movie. It put Method acting on the map and it was endlessly parodied by comedians - which showed how effective it was at the time..

              Last edited by American Aurora; 28-05-20, 07:36 PM.