I remember studying A Streetcar Named Desire; the 1947 play by Tennessee Williams, in depth during my English Literature A-Level at school. Then watching the 1951 film adaptation starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando and loving them both. So, when I discovered a few months ago that tickets were going on sale for a stage production of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester starring none other than Maxine Peake, who I’d seen perform as Hamlet previously in a recording of the production at the Cornerhouse I couldn’t stop myself from buying tickets.
I’d never been to the Royal Exchange before and it’s such a fantastic venue, it’s in the round and I was lucky enough to be stage side so you could see everything up close and personal. The set was incredibly minimalist featuring 2 mattresses, a fridge, a fold-down table and a bathtub separated by a clear screen. Although the set has been criticised for being too simplistic I think it gave a stronger focus on the performance by the actors and the set with the brilliant lighting filled in the backdrop and atmosphere where needed. Throughout the play, Blanche is haunted by 3 personified versions of her inner demons and I found the use of sound and light to showcase this very interesting. Maxine Peake was incredible, capturing both the flirty funny side of the play as well as the dark, complicated side of her character, Blanche DuBois. I also thought the performances by Sharon Duncan-Brewster who played Stella and Ben Batt who played Stanley very strong also. They had fantastic chemistry throughout the play.
Overall, the show was fantastic I absolutely loved it and the venue. I would definitely go back if given the opportunity and if you have managed to get tickets for this show (I’ve heard it’s completely sold out) let me know what you think!