Streetcar Named Desire ballet is word-perfect adaptation of play

May 2, 2012

Scottish Ballet version of Tennessee Williams's steamy tragedy barely misses a word

What you need to know
A Streetcar Named Desire is a new dance production based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same name. The Scottish Ballet production is directed by an American, Nancy Meckler, who is best known for her work with the Shared Experience theatre company. The choreography is by up-and-coming Belgian-Colombian Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Peter Salem (originator of the music for TV's Call the
Midwife) provides the jazz music score.

Set in New Orleans, Streetcar tells the story of fading Southern belle, Blanche DuBois, who moves in with her sister Stella and her destructive husband Stanley in an attempt to escape her troubled past.

Eve Mutso plays Blanche (pictured above) and Tama Barry dances the brutish Stanley.
Sophie Martin appears as Blanche's sister Stella.

What the critics like
This danced version of Streetcar is thrillingly persuasive, says Jenny Gilbert in The Independent. It crackles with Southern heat and sexual tension and is a model storytelling. "Everything is here, from the big themes of masculine-feminine, earth and air, to the smallest detail." Even Blanche DuBois's la-di-da way of speaking is translated into "a mincing step and a ladylike twitch of the skirt".

A Streetcar without the hot, humid music of Tennessee Williams's language sounds like a lost cause, says Judith Mackrell in The Guardian. But in this version "you barely miss a word". Most effective is the pure dance expression. Tama Barry "delivers a threatening heft as Stanley" while Sophie Martin's Stella is excellent, "a tiny, vivid bundle of conflicted emotion".

Florid, poetic, poisonously beautiful, says Clifford Bishop in The Evening Standard, this is everything you could want from a Tennessee Williams tale. The plot is completely lucid while Peter Salem's jazz-based-melting-pot score provides "just the right amount of New Orleans seasoning to the action".

What they don't like
Streetcar is a nadir for the Scottish Ballet, says Clement Crisp in The Financial Times. Meckler and Lopez Ochoa deliver "a numbingly literal realisation" of this over-wrought play in dance. "By turns turgid and laborious, blatant at every moment, the production is a first contender for Olympic Bore of 2012."

If there is a serious flaw, it's the ballet's faithfulness to the plot, says Judith Mackrell in The Guardian. It almost tries to cram in too much. "Yet even as it races from scene to scene, action sustains the flow by integrating all the scene-setting into the choreography."

On tour: His Majesty's, Aberdeen 2-5 May; Eden Court, Inverness 9-12 May; Grand Opera House, Belfast 16-19 May.

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