REVIEW: A Streetcar Named Desire, Northern Stage, Newcastle, until June 14

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SECRET Theatre is a newly-established group of young actors who, like all new troupes, face a dilemma to get established: if they put on an original play, the public would overlook them, therefore, they put on a well-known piece and face the risk of comparisons.

The better known the play, the harder the job: most people remember Marlon Brando in the 1951 film.

The original setting is a very hot and sultry New Orleans and the main man is Stanley Kowalski, an alpha male who plays 10-pin bowling with his heavy-drinking mates. Kowalski lives with his pregnant wife, Stella, whose comedown in life means she has opted to marry a violent boor.

Into the mix enters Stella’s deluded and delicate sister Blanche DuBois, who is running away from her failed life but who is quick to give advice to Stella about hers. Director Sean Holmes has, however, opted to set this version in England and use the whole length of the (big) Northern Stage stage with a white and mostly bare staging.

Hence, arguments that would normally be conducted in raised voices felt screeched, and conversations were delivered to the audience rather than to each other. In this setting, the necessary claustrophobic feeling and imminent combustibility was lacking.

While Stella is placid, the real struggle is fought out between Kowalski and Blanche. The latter, who constantly showers and changes clothes to feel fresh and cast off her demons, shifts between a sexual predator and a desperately lonely woman. Kowalski’s desire to expose her as a fantasist ends in rape, sending Blanche over the edge.

The story still retains resonance but this streetcar, while welcomingly different, appears to have taken the wrong direction.

Ed Waugh