As we walk into this small and intimate venue the smell of cigarette smoke, the sound of Southern Alabama accents and some wonderful blues music, invokes beautifully the atmosphere of the piece we have come to see and, with the old-fashioned looking programme and tickets to help, it really feels like we've been somehow transported not only back in time, but also right into the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Tennessee Williams play is very well known and, although a lot of the Brighton Fringe productions pride themselves on being different, unusual or off-the-wall, this production stays faithful to the original with Blanche Du Bois Lauren Varnfield arriving, on the trolley bus route named in the title, to stay with her sister, Stella Arabella Gibbons and her husband Stanley, played by Emmett Friel.
Blanche and Stella’s sisterly relationship is apparent from the start, with Blanche’s controlling ways, and alcoholism, initially disguised brilliantly by Varnfield’s wonderful acting. Having said that, Gibbons is every bit the equal in the acting stakes. Both are very believable and the fact that they manage to keep up their typical Southern drawl accents throughout the show, without drifting, is positively inspiring.
Friel also plays his character well, emphasising Stanley’s almost primal roughness and dominating personality while still holding on to his more sensual side. His emotionally and physically abusive nature is played out to the full and both the intimate and the violent scenes are very real. The closeness of the seating to the set also helps to increase the intensity of the drama.
With such a strong and familiar story, and a list of previous productions as long as your arm, it must be very difficult to actually bring anything “new” to the roles but, as we could easily see the cast all performing at the very top of their game, the audience responded well to the performance and curtain calls were greeted with appreciative applause all round.
The New Venture Theatre Company already comes with a very good pedigree and this production will confirm that they know exactly how to deliver a very enjoyable show.