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Did the Almeida's A Streetcar Named Desire garner the kindness of critics?

The highly anticipated production, starring Patsy Ferran, Paul Mescal and Anjana Vasan, is now officially open!

Paul Mescal and Anjana Vasan in A Streetcar Named Desire
© Marc Brenner

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage


"Talk about eagerly awaited. There was an excitable buzz around Rebecca Frecknall's (hot off the back of her record-breaking Cabaret success) production of this Tennessee Williams classic from the moment it was announced that Paul Mescal, of Normal People and Aftersun fame, would be taking the part of Stanley Kowalski, a role created by Marlon Brando.

"But then Lydia Wilson, originally cast as Blanche DuBois, was injured and had to withdraw and the press night was moved from before Christmas to the New Year. The fact that Wilson's replacement, Patsy Ferran, had previously worked with Frecknall on an award-winning revival of Williams' lesser-known Summer and Smoke also at this address, if anything increased expectation.

"Now it's here, this Streetcar isn't quite as revelatory as that extraordinary production. But it is nevertheless a thoughtful and insightful look at a great and emotional play, one which dusts away layers of accumulated history to reveal the bare bones of a story where death is the opposite of desire, and where the fear of both can tear a woman's mind to shreds."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times


"Mescal is tremendous: he makes the latent violence of Stanley Kowalski into something easy, tangible, vibrant yet unactorly. Ferran is simply sensational.

"Yet it's the way the production as a whole blends dreamlike intimacy and imaginative realism that makes this much-revived 1947 masterpiece feel like it was written last Tuesday. Rebecca Frecknall had a hit here in 2018 with a first-rate rejig of a second-string Williams, Summer and Smoke (also starring Ferran). Now, in her first production since directing Cabaret in the West End, she once again manages to clear away the clag of the story while introducing a new sense of mystery. Not an ounce of 'great theatre' stiffness here: this is raw, poetic, painful and plausible. Funny, too."

Jessie Thompson, The Independent


"For a play that we usually think of as full of heightened emotion, Frecknall's version feels deftly controlled and all the more effective for it. It takes a while to build in the first half but, once it does, it's masterful. Small, innocuous actions from Blanche – such as turning the radio on – inspire 10-yard stares from Stanley that exude silent threat. Stanley's assault on Blanche is performed impressionistically, with Blanche surrounded forebodingly by his mob of Hawaiian-shirted, poker-playing friends. And there are touches of almost balletic, melancholy movement in which we see Blanche haunted by her past, followed by the ghost of the husband who killed himself.

"After her extraordinary Cabaret, this Streetcar is another signal that Frecknall is a director with thrilling insights into the works we think we know. But it also shows that she can draw out impressive performances from repeat collaborators such as Ferran and Vasan. After his cruel and brilliant Stanley, Mescal would be a very welcome addition to a brigade of actors realising the work of one of the most exciting directors around."

Paul Mescal in A Streetcar Named Desire
© Marc Brenner

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian


"There is slow motion movement and a sudden downpour of rain around the stage while the cast carry on props and take them away again to highlight the fact that they are each playing the role of actor as well as character. In its spirit it resembles the startlingly reworked Oklahoma! staged last year, although that production's stylistic innovations felt edgier.

"At times it seems as if we are watching rather than sinking into the play's world, especially in the first half, although it never stops being arresting in its effects."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph


"It's hard to reinvent Streetcar; the evening falls short of Summer and Smoke's revelations, but grips with the intensity of a bad dream; drums pound feverishly away, and the pain is relayed of a lonely life spiralling beyond last chance saloon. The final scene, which shows forceful restraint being applied to the carted-away heroine is heart-stopping."

Patsy Ferran in A Streetcar Named Desire
© Marc Brenner

Nick Curtis, Evening Standard


"This wrenchingly sad, stark staging of Tennessee Williams's play is the stuff theatrical myths are made of, and the first great London show of 2023. Starring Paul Mescal as the toxically masculine Stanley Kowalski, in his first stage role since Normal People propelled him to nice-guy TV stardom, it was delayed and recast when lead actress Lydia Wilson withdrew due to an injury.

"The sublime Patsy Ferran stepped into the role of Blanche DuBois, the ageing southern belle whose gentility masks mental illness and sexual desperation, as if born to it. She, Mescal and Anjana Vasan as Stella, Blanche's sister and Stanley's wife, provide the core of emotional truth to Rebecca Frecknall's production. All three act with their whole bodies."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage


"With the freshness of approach that has become her directorial hallmark, Frecknall, along with designer Madeleine Girling, strips away most of the physical trappings, and all of the clichés, of the New Orleans tenement where Stella and Stanley share two cramped rooms. Instead, Frecknall takes us inside the tormented head of Stella's sister Blanche, as she arrives seeking sanctuary from a past drenched in tragedy, pain and shame.

"Shards of dialogue, delivered by an ever-watchful ensemble of actors who stalk the stage's perimeter, overlap in a cacophony of street noise. Perched above, a drummer (Tom Penn) picks out the rhythms and cadences of Blanche's nagging neuroses in the shimmer of cymbals, sudden, startling crashes and blows."

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out


"Beyond the terrific actors, Frecknall's production is wired and adrenalised, aesthetically defined less by Madeleine Girling‘s minimalist set than Penn's thunderously jolting drums. It's a jarring approach that feel both invigorating – it‘s so loud you're hardly going to nod off – and wilfully playing against the melodrama in Williams's text, occasionally to the point of perversity."

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