Last night’s opening performance of The King’s Players A Streetcar Named Desire allowed me, at long last, to tick off Tennessee William’s classic from my ‘must see’ list. My only exposure having been Marge Simpson’s memorable performance in ‘Oh! Streetcar! The Musical’, I was somewhat surprised to find that the script to this monumental play was significantly more sophisticated than that of The Simpsons’ parody version. All of a sudden, Ned Flanders’ poetic lament, ‘Stellaaa, Stellaaa, Can’t you hear me yella, You’re putting me through hella’ seemed insufficient to tell the story of Blanche Dubois’ tumultuous visit to New Orleans. This play is an absolute success for King’s College London’s amateur dramatic society – read on for a detailed account of the experience from the view in the cheap seats.
Date of viewing: 22/03/2017
Production: A Streetcar Named Desire
Seat: Front row (free for all!)
How cheap!?: £6 (students) £5 for society members and £10 for adults
This mammoth play is being performed in a contrastingly tiny setting. The production makes excellent use of King’s College’s Anatomy Museum – an intimate space which allows for highly inventive staging. Surrounded by hanging washing and cluttered knickknacks, the audience sits right in the heart of the home of Stanley (Nick Carter) and Stella (Beth Mabin), invited to participate closely in the unravelling of their summer with Blanche Debois (Rebecca Lewis). Although an amateur play, this production has taken its set and staging seriously – for which it should be applauded – and prepares for its actors an environment in which they can flourish in performance.
– And flourish they do! This small cast has a big task to undertake, and the whole company rises to the occasion. Famously rife with colossal themes of violence, heartbreak and insanity, A Streetcar Named Desire demands of its performers a professionalism and sensitivity, which, I believe, was evident in this exhibition. Sara Malik and Emily Brown are to be congratulated for what is
superb direction – and, when needed, adaptation – of daring and exciting scenes. Ensemble members are to be commended for their subtlety of execution.
Primarily, this play is a family affair – a story recounting the tale of Blanche’s summer visit to her sister, Stella, and Stella’s husband Stanley – or more accurately, a family feud. Nick Carter gives an exciting rendition of the brutish Stanley. Although a somewhat different approach to that of 50’s heartthrob Marlon Brando (or Ned Flanders, for that matter), Nick’s performance of Stanley is thorough and convincing. He performs the role with appropriate anger and aggression, but doesn’t neglect to bring forth the humanity of Stanley’s character. Words fall from his mouth with a smooth, yet sinister, intensity and he executes his lines with a consistent and impressive Southern accent. He plays alongside Beth Mabin, Stanley’s doting wife. Beth plays the challenging part of Stella with impressive intensity. In her portrayal, Beth is expressive and sympathetic – and, where appropriate, emotional. She is particularly convincing as a heavily pregnant mother-to-be, and manages, unlike the other characters in the play, to remain steadfast and grounded when life falls apart.
“Sara Malik and Emily Brown are to be congratulated for what is superb direction”
The rightful star of this play, however, is Rebecca Lewis as the emotionally fragile Blanche Dubois. Rebecca’s performance is an earth-shatteringly beautiful exploration of the ups and downs of Blanche’s existence. In each scene, Rebecca is masterful over every one and thing she touches – always with immense power, even when purposefully dainty or delicate. With a gorgeously deep voice, Rebecca utters an incredibly impressive string of seemingly endless lines and monologues which reveal deep and dark secrets about the life of Miss Dubois. Her performance is sensitive, funny and, quite honestly mesmerising. Rebecca performs this staggeringly challenging role in a way which is inviting and incredibly moving – she leaves no door left un-open, giving great depth of insight into the mind of the poor and troubled Blanche. Her performance, though well supported by her peers, is unparalleled in its execution, and she ought to be immensely proud of her achievement.
“Rebecca’s performance is an earth-shatteringly beautiful exploration”
If you count yourself a Tennessee Williams fan, head to The King’s Players performance of A Streetcar Named Desire before you head across the road to the playwright’s The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s theatre. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that this amateur performance is a much rarer and more authentic treat.
Purchase tickets at https://www.kclsu.org/organisation/KingsPlayers/
the girl sitting in the cheap seats