Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire
Tenessee Williams
London, Methuen, 2009, 90p

What I like most about reading a play is that it can so often be done in the space of a day. And in that time, with a play like A Streetcar Named Desire, you can go from the comfort of your living room to the streets of Louisiana.

Blanche DuBois is visiting her sister, Stella, and her new husband, Stanley. She is a fragile, dreamy woman who is shocked to find her sister, once a Southern belle, is living in a dingy flat in New Orleans. To Blanche, Stanley seems aggressive and common, but Stella is smitten, and though they fight often and loudly, they make up with sweet kisses and tenderness. But the addition of Blanche to Stanley and Stella's household puts a strain on the couple, and it becomes increasingly apparent that Blanche may not be telling the truth about her visit.

Tenessee Williams' play is gritty and dramatic, contrasting Stanley's rough manners with Blanche's fragile state of mind. To Stanley, Blanche appears to be a compulsive liar, though she is suffering from mental health problems and seems to have a fantastical way of rationalising her past.

After I read the book, I watched the 1951 movie with Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando, which added another level of depth and drama to the play. Brando's performance - borish and sensual - is the complete antithesis of Leigh's scatty and angelic Blanche. And between the two sits the marvellous Kim Hunter (Stella), torn between sister and lover.

Plus, Brando is incredibly hot.

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