Celebrating the 65th anniversary of Tennessee Williams's play of madness and masochism, Scottish Ballet's stunning production of A Streetcar Named Desire pounds with the primal instincts of brute sexuality and the chiffon softness of fading Southern grandeur.
The Streetcar has stopped in these parts many times before but rarely does beauty succeed brawn as sublimely as it does here. Well-paced, exquisitely choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and sexily underscored by Peter Salem, the ballet tells the backstory of one of literature's most iconic women, presenting the beating heart of a dame haunted and changed by ghastly apparitions of her youth.
Dressed in his trademark vest and scowl, Tama Barry is a forceful and highly sexual Stanley, finding the character in aggressive strides and lustful movements. The only words of the evening are his and vault around the theatre with animalistic passion.
The piece belongs to Blanche DuBois, an ageing Southern belle who tries to find absolution from the tragedies and heartaches of her youth in sexual trysts and the bottom of a gin bottle. Clinging to the elegance of the South's crumbling aristocracy like the last magnolia of summer, Eve Mutso's turn as DuBois is heartfelt and heartbreaking, realising the complex roots of the character's tragic ruin with great grace and dignity.
And therein lies the sole problem with this otherwise perfect production. Blanche's madness is so all-consuming that the piece fails to fully reconcile the important social dramas at the heart of Williams's play. The cultural clash between ennobled Southerner Blanche and earthy, hard-labouring Stanley, one of the play's most timely and dramatic themes, fails to be realised.
As a consequence, the piece becomes almost entirely centred on Dubois's descent into madness which, powerful and well-executed as it is, leaves characters such as Stella trembling in Stanley's hulking shadow with little individual development.
Should it matter? Of course not. Here, DuBois joins Giselle and Madame Butterfly and the other tragic heroines of ballet and opera who sacrificed their lives for their loves.