Review of Sarah Frankcom’s ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

“This is an earthquake of a play that lays bare the extremes and contradictions of being human: desire and love, truth and delusion, hope and despair. I’m thrilled that this production will build on my creative collaboration with Maxine Peake. She’s a rare and fearless actor. I am positive we will create something electrifying for our intimate and unique space.” Sarah Frankcom, Director

Mrs S Dutson


  1. I really liked the play and how they used the lights to show Blanches thoughts. For example how the lights came down at the stressful moments, like the rape and also how when Blanche was taking in the apartment for the first time, they showed that through lighting up the objects on the set. The actor who played Stella was good however I feel like she presented her with a more sense of control. I thought it was interesting how they replaced the polka with the three characters haunting the set. I thought that they represented Blanches inner demons and how they gradually get worse throughout the play. I think they tried to convey that by having the characters occasionally come on to set at the start
    then have them being constantly around Blanche on the set closer to the end.

  2. I was interested throughout the play by the appearances of the figures dressed in dark colours. I interpreted them to represent Blanche’s numerous ‘vices’. One, who appeared every time she drank, and who eventually gave her a drink, was her vice of alcohol. The women who appeared when talking about Blanche’s past relations and her scenes with Mitch, who even lay on her mattress was Blanche’s sexual promiscuity. The final character, a young man, was representative of her dead husband and the secrets of her past. I also found it interesting how at the end of the play, the same actors played the doctors who took Blanche away. I also liked how the figure’s costumes and Blanche’s costumes both had flowers on them, linking them to each other.

  3. The interpretation of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ was, by the most part, a refreshing take on Williams’ original play. I especially enjoyed the technique used to show Blanche’s conscience instead of the polka music used in the original. The figures of her conscience were an effective way of leading the audience towards her final downfall, where the more troubled she became, the closer the figures were to Blanche. This gave the play the Gothic theme that can often be disguised in the written text or even in other interpretations. The fact that the figures were black gave a small reference to the past, where slavery was a big issue in America and with Blanche being from a plantation this could have been a clever reference to her hiding from her past, but that it will always find a way to creep up on her. The figures were also whispering what sounded to be ‘Blanche, sugar’ perhaps also linking back to her promiscuous past at the Flamingo. Stanley was portrayed differently to the interpretation Marlon Brando performed, but also I thought, different to the way Stanley was portrayed in the written text. In this interpretation, Stanley was viewed as humorous and his violence appearing somewhat comical, perhaps this was done as a way to relieve the tension or maybe to even reference that Stanley finds his own vulgar attitude to be amusing. However, I didn’t enjoy this interpretation of Stanley as I felt he could have portrayed the character with a lot more vice and show off the impolite nature that Stanley should have, such as chewing gum when meeting Blanche for the first time or, like in the written text, eating cold slabs of meat ripping it apart with his teeth, giving Stanley a much more carnivorous and threatening nature. Stella was also a lot different, in the written text I had always viewed her as being passive and tranquil, yet she was much livelier and seemed less scared of Stanley, I didn’t think this worked as well as it was aimed to, yet it did show us a different side to her character and perhaps made her appear less dull. I enjoyed the way the play was set out, with the clear screen separating the bathroom and bedroom it gave the audience a clear idea of how small the space was and how there really was no room, making Stella appear trapped. This worked really well especially when Blanche was being taken away by the doctors and Stella was on the other side, perhaps a metaphor showing that Stella couldn’t get to her and could no longer help her as ‘Life has got to go on…’.

  4. In Sarah Frankcom’s production of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, I found the minimalistic set to be effective in emphasising the intimate, almost claustrophobic mood of the play. The use of costume also effectively established to the audience the divide and differences in background and values, especially between Blanche and Stella, as Blanche wore far more feminine and traditional clothing than Stella, who had a more contemporary costume, which possibly forebodes the play’s ending and the separation of the two sisters. I found the convivial portrayal of Stella to be an interesting and refreshing contrast to her portrayal in the Kazan film, and that this portrayal made her eventual submission to Stanley even more tragic. The almost constant drone in the background of the play also effectively raised the tension of the performance, and possibly heightened the feeling of catharsis at the end of the play, which was silent, apart from Blanche’s final line. As Maxine Peake delivered this line, she was placed in a bright white light, which had angelic connotations, possibly leaving the audience believing that Blanche was in fact a tragic heroine.

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