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Scottish Ballet: A Streetcar Named Desire, London, March 2015


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Scottish Ballet also start a brief run of their new A Streetcar Named Desire at Sadler's Wells tonight, so please use this thread for discussion.

 

BTW, does anyone know the running time? The SW website is unhelpful in that respect.

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Scottish Ballet have got a winner on their hands. If you can, go and see their new Streetcar. You will have an absorbing evening's entertainment. The involvement of a theatre director is apparent. The story is very clear. It is told chronologically, without flashbacks as in the film (play?). There is some clever staging. I don't want to say any more about this because it will spoil the element of surprise. The specially commissioned score fitted the story and the dancing perfectly (it was altered in the course of the rehearsals). The dancing was varied, and inventive in places. The brutal encounter between the two leads was gripping. The characterisation was good. Tama Berry really brought out the character of Stanley: a controlling brute. It was all very well done. Tonight's performance was very well-received by a large audience (the theatre was full or nearly full). Ashley Page must be delighted that his final production with Scottish Ballet has turned out so well.

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Regrettably, for a combination of reasons, I have had to delay commenting on Scottish Ballet's "Streetcar Named Desire" until now. I saw it on the opening night at Sadler's Wells last Thursday and have no hesitation in saying that it was the most satisfying theatrical event I have seen in some time. I note that this view is entirely at odds with that of Mr Crisp in today's FT, unusually for me, but so be it.

 

I had thought of drawing comparisons with the Royal ballet's new Scarlett commission, "Sweet Violets," but I see that Luke Jennings did that at some length in his review yesterday. So all that is left is for me to commend as highly as I can the clarity of the Scottish production. It successfully blends the talents of a theatrical director, choreographer, composer and designer in the telling of a detailed narrative. Some vignettes come to mind: the deterioration of the Dubois family fortunes, the rapid scene changes in the telling of Blanche's relationship with Mitch - dinner, boating, a visit to the cinema, at the end Blanche accepting the offered arm of the man-in white-coat as she goes to the asylum, just the sort of protective gesture that she had sought throughout as her world fell apart. Then there was the clever staging and the through-composed score and soundscape, with some excellent 50s-style jazz trumpet and a couple of good 12-bar riffs, all accompanying the action in detail. And, of course, there was a wonderful company, led here by Eve Mutso, Sophie Martin and Tama Berry - a joy to watch.

 

I would happily see it again and, for readers here around Aberdeen, Inverness or Belfast, do take the chance to see it over the next three weeks if you can.

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I note that this view is entirely at odds with that of Mr Crisp in today's FT, unusually for me, but so be it.

 

I would happily see it again and, for readers here around Aberdeen, Inverness or Belfast, do take the chance to see it over the next three weeks if you can.

 

I agree Ian, I'm also unusally at odds with Mr Crisp and I would very definitely like to see it again. The only critisism I have is that is that I didn't feel moved by it which was slightly puzzling given the story and how well all the elements came together. Maybe it was the cast (Friday) I saw.

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On Thursday Sophie Martin was particularly good in the role of Stella. It's hard to play a doormat effectively but she managed to make the character believable and commanded the stage through her characterisation and fluid dancing.

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Well, prompted by Jann Parry's review for DanceTabs http://www.dancetabs.com/2012/04/scottish-ballet-a-streetcar-named-desire-london/, and being one of those who has managed to go through life without ever seeing the play or the film, I thought this was theatrically very effective, and I enjoyed it. Where I was left at a loss sometimes, though, was as to the characters' thoughts and motivations (and I would certainly have struggled more had I not skimmed through the synopsis on Wikipedia before I went), and, like Anna, I didn't really feel emotionally involved. I felt it was a good, linear, relating of the narrative (and it was a narratively very packed 2 hours), and would appreciate seeing it again sometime, but, just as with the Royal Ballet's recent Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I didn't feel there was much emotional depth to it, and it's not a ballet I'd want to see repeatedly. However, that's not really a problem: what SB needed was a ballet which they can tour to different venues from time to time, which suits the company and the venues they go to, and which will bring audiences in, and clearly the ballet works on those terms.

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Alison, I entirely agree that it was theatrically very effective - and, as I've found these last twelve years or so, without the spoken word ballet can struggle to put across an intricate narrative effectively. Hence the discussions from time to time on the need, or otherwise, for an adequate scenario in the programme as opposed to the dance speaking entirely for itself. (I'd say that Liam Scarlett's "Sweet Violets" provides a recent case in point, with many reporting that they had little idea of what was happening.) As I think back to this "Streetcar," my impression now is that direction, choreography, score and staging were all equally important in the unfolding of the story. I don't mean that dance was incidental, but it perhaps was less central than in other works where dance comes first and all else has to fight for its place. That might be a partial explanation for Jann Parry and Anna, above, finding a certain something lacking - just a thought - whereas, for me, the complete package worked supremely well.

 

On this point, there was a BBC interview with the Director, Nancy Meckler, around the opening in Glasgow - on iPlayer, so no longer available - and, in response to a question about working with a choreographer, she said that the latter had the last word if choices had to be made. So, my theory may hold very little water! Whatever the case, I repeat that I'd happily see it again.

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Ian, I agree that in Streetcar the dance is perhaps slightly less central than it is in other ballets but I think that this has had to be the case to enable this particular story to be told clearly. Unlike Anna and Alison I did feel emotionally involved. I have certainly felt uninvolved when I have been to see many other, more traditional, ballets. I thought that I had read or heard somewhere that the director had had the final say over the choreographer. I really enjoyed Streetcar and thought that it was very well done, but if you want to see a lot of classical ballet dancing then it is probably not the ballet for you.

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  • 2 years later...

Thanks Alison, was wondering why there wasn't a review thread for this.

 

I thought this was a fantastic production - one of the best I've seen for telling a narrative clearly and understandably through dance.

 

Having done a quick brush up on the play during the day to refresh my memory, I followed the characters and story very easily.  However,  I overheard a very amusing conversation by the people behind me in the interval - they clearly had no idea what the plot of the play actually is, so they summarised the story based on the dancing only.  It was really funny!  They kind of understood the main actions, but had put the wrong interpretation on each one of them to put them together into a plot that was completely unrecognisable! 

 

Unlike the commenters above, I did find it very moving - the traumatic conclusion was still a shock when played out, despite knowing what was coming.  The staging is very clever - simple but effective, and all the characters are clearly and recognisably conveyed.  Would definitely recommend it, a bargain at Sadlers Wells prices!

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Scottish Ballet has always occupied a special place in my affections because they were the first company that I got to know and love. Yesterday I found fresh reason to love that company last night when I saw A Streetcar named Desire at Sadler's Wells.  This was a collaboration between theatre director, Nancy Meckler and choreographer, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. The result is quite extraordinary: high drama as well as great ballet. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it.

The ballet is based on the play by Tennessee Williams. I say based because there are bits of the ballet that do not appear in the play such as Blanche Dubois's marriage and her late husband's suicide but these are necessary in order to set the ballet in context.  In the play there are four main roles: Blanche Dubois, once the heiress of the great Southern mansion Belle Rêve, her sister Stella who has thrown in her lot with the uncouth Stanley Kowalsk and his mate Mitch who courts Blanche for a while. Commencing the ballet with the marriage enables Meckler and Lopez Ochoa to create a firth: Blanche's late husband Alan who shoots himself in despair after Blanche discovers his apparent affection for another man.

Blanche is not nice to know.  Her rejection of Alan leads leads directly to his suicide. She is arrogant and disdainful of the hospitality that her sister and brother show her initially by taking her off the street. Stanley may be a brute but we can well understand why he doesn't like his sister in law. Playing dance music while he and his friends try to relax over a game of cards. She gets Mitch to change the the light fittings without so much as a by your leave. Finally she tries to turn Stella against her husband.  She takes to the bottle. She has a succession of unhappy relationships. Eventually she tries to seduce the delivery boy. But for all her faults we can't help feeling sorry for her as her dignity  like her clothes in the rape scene- is stripped away in layers. In the penultimate scene she is left naked quivering on the floor. A very powerful image.

Two fine young dancers have created that role - Eve Mutso and Luciana Ravizzi.  Last night I sa Ravizzi, She comes from Buenos Aires - a city which, like the Southern states in the 1940s has known better days. It is the city of the tango - the mournful music of the Italian immigrants so far from home. That city has more than its fair share of tragic heroines. Most particularly María Eva Duarte de Perón whom we know as "Evita". I was conscious of those connotations as I watched Ravizzi dance last night.

Whereas I had some sympathy for Blanche I had much less for her sister Stella. One of the few wise and brave things that Blanche did was to try to save her sister from Stanley. To no avail for she threw herself into his arms no matter what the abuse. In the end she connived at Blanche's committal to the psychiatric hospital  That role was danced by Sophie Laplane who portrayed that poor conflicted soul exactly.

Christopher Harrison danced the loutish Stanley. He was menacing in every movement. He walked in a slow, threatening swaggering gait. His gestures were staccato even when playing cards,  His manhandling of Blanche in the rape scene was harrowing. A first class performance in every respect. Remi Andreoni danced the gentle Mitch with sensitivity. Andrew Peasgood was the ghostly blood stained spectre of Blanche's husband.

There were two other elements that made the show: Peter Salem's magnificent score and Niki Turner's designs. The loss of Belle Rêve was symbolized by the porticoed mansion collapsing into a pile of rubble, Brilliant theatre! One of several images from the performance that I doubt that I shall forget in a hurry

Scottish Ballet spent only three days with us. It was lovely to see them but I wish it were longer. I would love to have seen Mutso's interpretation of the role of Blanche. In to her interview with Christopher Hampson in Uncit  and also in Mark Monahan's programme note Becoming Blanche she describes the research she carried out to understand the role. She read the play, saw it on stage and studied the film. I would imagine her performance would be quite different.

The company is now taking the production to the United States and it will be interesting to see what the Americans make of this transposition of a classic of their literature. I think they will be as impressed as I have been and I certainly hope so.

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