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REVIEW: A Streetcar Named Desire 2023 (Scottish Ballet, Edinburgh)

Updated: Mar 26

The Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

5 May 2023

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Scottish Ballet, A Streetcar Named Desire 2023

A revival of Scottish Ballet’s hugely popular, award-winning production of Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire.


I saw this show for the first time in 2012 with the divine Eve Mutso in the lead role of Blanche, and it's a production I still remember fondly more than 10 years later. I take my seat with high expectations!

 

As you know, I adore the Scottish Ballet company and dancers; every one of them is incredible. Joining them for a couple of guest appearances as Stanley is Ryoichi Hirano, principal of the Royal Ballet in London. Wow. What an opportunity to see Rio dance live! I absolutely planned my visit to coincide with one of his performances.


Rio Hirano and Bethany Kingsley Garner as Stanley and Stella in Scottish Ballet's, A Streetcar Named Desire 2023. Photo credit: Andy Ross

Scottish Ballet's 'Streetcar' tells the iconic story of fading Southern belle Blanche Dubois by blending devastating drama with world class dance and live music from the exceptional Scottish Ballet orchestra.


In 1940's America, after Blanche's life falls apart, she moves to New Orleans to live with her sister Stella and husband Stanley in their small apartment.


I remember being blown away by the staging and set in the original production and it loses none of its impact on seeing it again. The sudden transition from Blanche's majestic Mississippi plantation house, Belle Reve, to the mean, sizzling streets of New Orleans is startling and symbolic. As the bricks of the set crumble, so too does Blanches' veneer as a wealthy, society wife. It's brilliantly done!


The simple blocks act as both props and set. They become beds, tables, chairs, even the iconic Streetcar. It's so very clever and effective. The darkness and simplicity of the set ensures the focus is on the dancers and the drama.


Scottish Ballet, A Streetcar Named Desire 2023. Photo credit: Andy Ross

Here is where the next element of genius comes into play: Row after row of burning orange lightbulbs are lowered on stage in a false ceiling of heat and sizzle. The dancer's bodies glisten with sweat and you feel (or imagine you can feel!) the sweltering New Orleans humidity rolling off the stage. Phew!


Although Blanche outwardly maintains an illusion of elegance and refinement, in reality she is tortured by her husbands death, and her loss of wealth and status. She turns to alcohol and to men, and lives largely in her imagination. Stanley sets out to expose her and to turn her sister Stella against her. Blanche is delicate and vulnerable - too sensitive to live in the real world. The exact opposite of her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski. When the two are forced to live together, the results are devastating.


Scottish Ballet, A Streetcar Named Desire 2023. Photo credit: Andy Ross

The iconic role of Stanley was famously brought to life in the 1951 film by a scorching hot Marlon Brando. Ryoichi Hirano does a magnificent job of portraying the brute on stage. This role calls for an imposing, powerful dancer and having seen Rio in the very demanding role of Crown Prince Rudolf in the Royal Ballet's Mayerling last year, there is no doubt he is the man for the job. He can throw his partners around with strength but obvious care.


Hirano is frightening as Stanley in some scenes. It's an incredible skill to not only dance beautifully but to put across such anger and passion without words. [Spoiler: Yes, he did shout "Stella!!"] There are definitely a few scenes in 'Streetcar' that are hard to watch, but all credit to Director Nancy Meckler, Choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and the dancers - they are all handled perfectly.


I did laugh when Rio received a few boos from the audience at curtain call. It's not pantomime! But that tells you how convincing his portrayal was. How odd it must feel for him to be boo'ed!


Scottish Ballet, A Streetcar Named Desire 2023. Photo credit: Andy Ross

At the performance I saw, Bethany Kingsley-Garner took on the role of Stella, and it's no surprise she was excellent. Happy and carefree when with her sister; a little anxious but enamoured when with Stanley.


Bethany is one of my favourite dancers in the company; I'm completely in awe of her talent and resilience. Bethany is a dancing mum, having returned to performing after the birth of her daughter last year. I saw Bethany in the lead of the Snow Queen in December 2022 and was stunned. To return to such a physically demanding job as a principal ballerina, and to maintain that level of performance is an incredible achievement.


In 'Streetcar', when Stella is pregnant, that whole dance with the baby bump just felt very authentic and moving to me. I can only imagine how special it felt for Bethany. A beautiful moment.


Scottish Ballet, A Streetcar Named Desire 2023. Photo credit: Andy Ross

Vivien Leigh won the 1952 Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Blanche Dubois in the film, and although I can't expect Marge Hendrick to do the same, I expect her to sweep the boards in next years dance awards. Her performance here as Blanche is outstanding.


From beginning to end, Marge takes us on Blanche's journey with a performance that is so raw and impactful, enchanting yet brutal - I had a lump in my throat for the whole second act and I could honestly see the moment Blanche's psyche fractured into a million pieces. Marge for all the dance awards next year please! Phenomenal.


This is a beautiful retelling of a classic story. Don't miss the chance to see this masterpiece performed by a company at the top of their game. On tour across Scotland now; more detail below.


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


📸 Production photos: Andy Ross

 

Scottish Tour


🎟️ Scottish Ballet's A Streetcar Named Desire is touring to the Islands of Scotland next.

You can find more info on the location and dates, and buy tickets here: https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/event/a-streetcar-named-desire 


Scottish Ballet, A Streetcar Named Desire 2023

 

🌟 A review of Scottish Ballet's 2023 dance production of A Streetcar Named Desire 2023 at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, May 2023 🌟


📸 Follow me @Lisa_InTheTheatre on Instagram for more photos and videos.

📧 For media and review requests contact Lisa_InTheTheatre@outlook.com


Lisa in the theatre, theatre blog, Scottish theatre, dance and comedy



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