The play, which successfully transferred to the big screen in 1951 and made a star of Marlon Brando, centres on fading southern belle Blanche DuBois, whose arrival at the home of her sister Stella and her brutish husband Stanley Kowalski upsets their marital dynamic and sets Blanche and Stanley on a violent collision course.
Rachel Weisz (Blanche) and Elliot Cowan (Stanley) lead a cast that also features Jack Ashton, Barnaby Kay and Ruth Wilson. The last major London production of Streetcar was at the National Theatre in 2002, when Glenn Close and Iain Glen played Blanche and Stanley in a production directed by Trevor Nunn. This time round, choreographer-turned-director Rob Ashford (Parade) is at the helm.
Much like when a football score fails to reflect the evenness of a game, today's raft of four star ratings disguises some major discrepancies between the critics' opinions. For example, whereas The Guardian's Michael Billington was “impressed without quite being overwhelmed”, Charles Spencer of The Telegraph found it to be “by some distance, the best Streetcar I have ever seen” - though both awarded the same rating.
Opinions varied too regarding the performance of Elliot Cowan; descriptions ranged from “chaotically accented” to “riveting”. The evening, though, undoubtedly belonged to Rachel Weisz, who, if she glances at today's reviews, will be pleased to note that the strongest criticism of her performance that most of the enraptured critics could muster is that she is “almost too beautiful” for the role of Blanche. And special mention too should go to the “impeccable support”, particularly of Ruth Wilson as an “outstanding” Stella.