Summertime, but the living is not easy when Blanche Dubois descends on sister Stella, living in a tiny New Orleans apartment with husband Stanley. It is indeed stiflingly claustrophobic -and almost overwhelmingly noisy at times; the music virtually drowned out one telling speech. The striking, precariously balanced set, swings round from exterior fire escape to the interior, with several scenes in the bedroom at the back, and though audible, it’s distracting when you have to peer past the people in the living room.
The dialogue is mostly wonderful (‘Sometimes - there's God - so quickly’), if astonishingly spiteful where Stanley is concerned; like Blanche, he has few redeeming qualities. Sam Troughton vividly takes sheer delight in being pugnacious; even his adoration of the long suffering yet graceful Stella does not prevent brutality. Leanne Best at times is unfortunately hesitant, as if more concerned with the accent than the acting, while Matthew Flynn’s is a fine piece of understatement as Blanche’s potential beau, Mitch. But all the relationships are compellingly portrayed.
Amanda Drew is as magnificent as Blanche clearly imagines herself to be. Although the first half felt rather drawn out because somebody so completely self-obsessed, so immersed in her fantasy world, can equally be so tiresome, her charms grow on you. Palatial home and past life gone for good, future and reputation uncertain, if not wholly believing in the tales she weaves, you end up willing them to come true. Her fall from grace is horrifying, but in the end, she heroically makes a dignified retreat.
This production wasn’t quite my cup of mint julep I’m afraid, but always fascinating to see the recreation of a masterpiece, one the packed audience received with rapturous applause.