Review: Scottish Ballet - A Streetcar Named Desire - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 26 - 28 April 2012
Reviewed by Laura Dodge - Friday 27 April 2012

Scottish Ballet 'A Streetcar Named Desire'

It isn’t the first time Tennessee Williams’ masterful play has been immortalised in dance, but Scottish Ballet’s latest A Streetcar Named Desire provides a vibrant and visceral new take.

Williams’ script translates well into ballet, though the fast-paced action and numerous characters make the story a difficult one to follow. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s choreography, however, is so irresistibly compelling that the finer narrative details become immaterial. This is a work that is all about emotion and passion, and Scottish Ballet performs with lucid fervour and sincerity.

The ballet opens and closes with long-limbed dancer Eve Mutso, who takes the lead as southern beauty Blanche DuBois. She delicately flutters towards a light bulb in a clever reference to Williams’ nearly-chosen play title of The Moth. Later we see that light is a metaphorical representation of desire, a tempting commodity that Blanche continues to seek despite its capacity to burn, as she searches for the husband that will provide her with a lifetime of happiness and security.

It is the clever collaboration between Ochoa and theatre and film director Nancy Meckler that make Streetcar such a captivating theatrical experience. They choose to include scenes only alluded to in the original play, including a young Blanche on her ill-fated wedding day, when her husband commits suicide. The blood-stained figure of Alan reappears throughout the ballet to haunt his wife, making her grief and descent into madness utterly convincing.

Blanche is a complex creature and Mutso gives her an endearing sense of naivety and optimism even in the depths of despair. Her movement is at times playful and at others heavy with the many burdens of her troubled life. Victor Zarallo as Alan, and Tama Barry as Stanley, Blanche’s sister’s violent husband, provide an excellent supporting cast.

Combined with Niki Turner’s industrial sets, the choreography and storyline are powerfully raw. Exposed light bulbs hang from the ceiling and moveable rectangular blocks become the set and furniture from beds and bar stools to hotel signs. Contrasting exuberant costumes including bowties and petticoats provide a touch of 1950s glamour. Peter Salem’s superb commissioned score uses a diverse combination of live and recorded music. Lyrically classical strings accompany love and heartbreak, and upbeat jazz transports action to the vibrant nightlife of New Orleans.

The whole production is a seamless blend of music, dance and drama. Streetcar is a ballet that is simply not to be missed.

Continues at Sadler’s Wells until Sat 29 April

Laura Dodge writes for Dancing Times and Dance Today magazines as well as the London Ballet Circle and English National Ballet’s Dance is the Word blog.

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