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Exquisitely clearly-told story in Scottish Ballet's revived stunner

By Margaret Chrystall

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REVIEW: A Streetcar Named Desire

Scottish Ballet

Eden Court

5 stars

In Scottish Ballet's A Streetcar Named Desire the show opens with tragic loveseeker Blanche du Bois stretching her arm up towards the golden lightbulb hanging high up there, her fingers fluttering upwards like tiny wings, a moth to a flame.

Roaeanna Leney and Evan Loudon in A Streetcar Named Desire. Picture Gavin Smart
Roaeanna Leney and Evan Loudon in A Streetcar Named Desire. Picture Gavin Smart

It's just one moment that lingers in your mind's-eye in the exquisitely clearly-told story in Scottish Ballet's revived stunner of a production.

Blanche famously calls on the kindness of strangers, but alcohol and inappropriate sex encounters force her to seek refuge at her sister Stella's apartment in New Orleans where conflict with Stella's husband Stanley triggers abuse and betrayal.

The plot of the original play is reworked by director Nancy Mackler and choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa so the timeline starts at the beginning with the two sisters Blanche and Stella still living in the grandeur of their American South family home, a Gone With The Wind-style mansion.We witness Blanche and her first love, Alan.

It's their wedding, but it's complicated and without giving too much away, the genuine feelings they have for each other will not be quite enough for happy endings.

Blanche's groom Alan is mentally tortured by betraying the bride he almost loves enough. But a bullet dramatically blows Blanche's life apart. In front of our startled eyes, her home noisily disintegrates into a pile of bricks that turn up as props throughout the rest of the show.

All that is difficult enough to portray clearly in dance.

But Bruno Micchiardi's performance as Alan, for example, means you can't miss the meaning. We see him dance the story with a fluid softness that makes his love for Blanche as clear as his regret it isn't enough and the shocking loss that follows.

It's this relationship that in the last scene of the ballet is still carrying Blanche's real tragedy as Alan's final moments are re-enacted again and again, he and a stageful of black-clad women, melting to the ground in death.

The opposite of that couple's doomed love is the very sensuous physicality of Blanche's sister Stella (Constance Devernay-Lawrence) and her passionate, boorish husband Stanley (Evan Loudon).

The essence of their relationship climaxes the end of the first act. Constance Devernay-Laurence in a 'naked' bodysuit as the two worship each other's bodies in a raunchy, jaw-droppingly sexy sequence as hot as molten metal.

In between, that and the end of Tennessee Williams' story, set in Stella and Stanley's claustrophobic apartment, Scottish Ballet ensures a vibrant world comes alive for us – inspired design touches just one of the ways they take us there.

The power of the Scottish Ballet orchestra is never more present than in this production – the wail of a muted trumpet or a heartfelt saxophone solo in the bars and on the streets of this 1940s world, the sound of a train and the lindy hop jazzy tunes that Stanley and his friends dance to in a bowling alley with Thomas Edwards turning in a star performance in his exuberant dancing as Mitch, who may represent hope for Blanche later.

This is a production that brings out career-bests from those in leading roles – such as exquisite fragility from Roseanna Leney as Blanche, the fading Southern belle and Evan Loudon, all animal power, turning in an electric performance as Stanley. The chorus shine too, savage as the attacking crowd that judge Blanche, bringing old world elegance as the wedding party and feisty energy to the bowling party.

Here, dance, music and design bring so much more than words – never more than in the sensitively-handled but raw scene where Stanley's hatred for everything Blanche stands for turns physical, Blanche, in a 'naked' bodysuit, a wounded creature and heartbreakingly vulnerable.

The emotional power of this performance and its connection with the audience ensured an emphatic standing ovation.

A Streetcar Named Desire is on at Eden Court on Saturday, April 22 at 7.30pm.

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