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Review Round-Ups

Gillian Anderson dazzles in A Streetcar Named Desire

The modern take on Tennessee Williams' classic play at the Young Vic impresses critics across the board

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Gillian Anderson
© Johan Persson

Michael Coveney


... Anderson's Blanche is a frightened doe, an eye-popping rabbit... director Benedict Andrews sticks to Williams's text but jolts it anachronistically forwards... It's the best sort of theatre-in-the-round, turning the style's disadvantages and drawbacks to aesthetic triumph... She literally lives out of her suitcase... a process I've never seen conveyed so poetically before... Anderson's vocal fragility sometimes counts against her, and she doesn't quite go the extra mile with the part... Ben Foster is hunky and sweaty, but sexual charisma's not his strong point... Vanessa Kirby's heart-breaking Stella... Corey Johnson's big-hearted, confused and plausible Mitch... it's the poignant grubbiness of their conjunction that marks out this groundbreaking play... Williams's language melds poetry with base idiom, explosive argument with the jazz riffs of the emotionally, as well as materially, dispossessed. And that's what this production honours fully.

Michael Billington


... Gillian Anderson gives a stellar performance... shifting focus sometimes becomes a distraction and makes the dialogue hard to hear... Anderson captures both Blanche's airy pretensions to grandeur and her desolate loneliness… But Anderson also conveys Blanche's emotional solitude... Ben Foster equally plays Stanley as a deeply physical man... a first-rate performance from Vanessa Kirby... updating to the present sits oddly with a play that talks of period bandleaders... some of Williams's poetry and humour gets lost... still a powerful production that reminds us, thanks to the sterling performances, that Williams deals with incomplete people... performances of Anderson and Foster, this sense of two needy people colliding comes strongly across.

Charles Spencer


... Never have I seen a production of the play that was so raw in its emotion, so violent and so deeply upsetting... with great blasts of tumultuous rock music... staging is equally compelling... performances are superb, with Gillian Anderson giving the performance of her career... she captures the syrupy southern charm of the woman... Anderson devastatingly captures a woman whose options are running out... her final crack-up is almost too painful to watch... Ben Foster brings a thrilling edge of violence to the stage... there isn't a moment when the tension slackens or attention lapses. It is an absolute knock-out.

Kate Bassett


... Benedict Andrews directs a stellar, modern-dress production... Magda Willi's design manages to seem epic and simultaneously understated... the revolve never badly upstages Anderson's sneakily predatory and sometimes satirically droll portrayal of Blanche... Vanessa Kirby and Ben Foster both put in riveting performances... Anderson plays down Blanche's feverish mentally fragility at the outset... this production is overextended, slightly losing steam... However, the additional enacted scenest invest this Streetcar with fresh, raw power.

Quentin Letts
Daily Mail


... Gillian Anderson's fine performance... rises from very good to top-rate... owing to the revolving stage, only part of the audience will see it... Anderson makes the most of her hooded, bedroomish eyes... Director Benedict Andrews's decision to stage it in the 21st century has dividends but, I think, one grave flaw. The plus points are immediacy, freshness, fashionable zing... Kirby is remarkably natural... Ben Foster is chillingly thuggish... Director Andrews slightly loses his nerve at the end... Some of the sightlines at crucial moments are dreadful... absence of the claustrophobia... an ingenious take powered by four ace performances, with an A star for X-Files' Anderson.

Paul Taylor


You can say what you like about this production, but it's definitely not underwrought… Director Benedict Andrews's aim is to jolt the audience out of any cosy, complacent sense of familiarity with this playwright's world and to pay him the tribute of radical renewal that we have no difficulty with accepting in revivals of Shakespeare… Gillian Anderson's shatteringly powerful and persuasive Blanche… it's when the story gathers mythic momentum that his production (to which I took a while to surrender) really flies. Anderson starts off as a slyly witty Blanche, her honeyed Southern drawl a perfect vehicle for barbed tactical tactlessness and she seems to have the upper hand in her electrically risky relationship with Ben Foster's hirsute, sweaty, exhibitionistically macho Stanley… There is excellent support from Corey Johnson as Mitch and from Vanessa Kirby as Stella…