Scottish Ballet’s A Streetcar Named Desire
Saw it performed on Friday 13th April (dundunduun), 2012 at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow.
A Streetcar Named Desire was without doubt the most fantastic piece of dance, and actually theatre, that I’ve seen for a long time.
First of all, I just want to say that if I could, I would go see this again. And again. And again. After a mishap with timings, I actually bought tickets for Thursday, which I couldn’t attend in the end, and another lot of tickets for Friday, which, thankfully I did attend. So there you go, Scottish Ballet, don’t say I’m not good to you!
I adore dance. I adore jazz, I adore the 30′s /40′s aesthetic. Scottish Ballet wrapped all of these lovely things and packaged fantastically into a gob-smacking package named A streetcar Named Desire. The story is gripping, it takes the audience through a surge of different emotions and feelings towards the characters, that’s what makes Streetcar so amazing.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s choreography was stunning (I loved the poker game), Nancy Meckler’s direction made this challenging piece flow effortlessly, she kept it as gripping as it should be and really hit the audience hard, and as always it was performed amazingly by all the dancers. Peter Salem’s music deserves a special mention too; I loved the jazz elements interlaced with the eerie, but beautiful piano and the haunting soundscape complimented with the frighting percussion. And everyone loves “Paper Moon” which was ingeniously weaved in to the score at parts.
I think every department should be proud as punch with what they have achieved, and especially like to congratulate Scottish Ballet for picking a tough, bold piece which is new territory in ballet.
This is ballet for the 21st Century, and I hope it’s here to stay.
The set designer, Niki Turner, has done a fantastic job creating an awe-inspiring location for the production.
The stage has a shell of what I would describe as a industrial unit, with horizontal steel columns at every wing left and right of the stage leading up to the height of the pros, and steel roof beams intersecting with the columns. The last beam upstage is clad with perspex. All this makes the structure of the set and is visible for the entire production. It’s really easy with what’s going inside this “unit” to forget that it is there, but it frames the the stage beautifully.
There’s a backdrop of a cityscape made out of boxes, located just beneath last beam. I initially thought that this was painted onto a fence or something, and I thought it looked cool. The cityscape quickly disappears though when Blanche DuBois’s life starts to falter, as the boxes all at once fall backwards. The city scape is all but gone and what is left is the individual boxes piled on top of the just revealed part of the stage. This was a great trick to look at alone, but it’s also powerful as it represents DuBois’ life falling to pieces. This metaphor is continued throughout the performance when the dancers take off the’s boxes bit at a time, as the life DuBois’ life as she knows it slowly disappears (the cityscape and the memories).
Talking of boxes, There’s not much in the way of props and stuff, so boxes are often used by dancers as tables, beds, hotel signs (more on this later!), and in the background, I thought some of the boxes piled up looked like flats and skyscrapers- replacing the cityscape of old. They are also used in the choreography as pathways for the dancers. Very effective and they complimented the blocky industrial look.
Other than the theme’s above, it was actually kept relatively simple, which suited the production beautifully. There was an old type free-standing bath tub which was tucked behind the boxes which was nice just to give a touch of reality in key moments.
Lighting:Quick note: I don’t have the lighting designer’s name, as I don’t have the programme and it’s not listed on SB’s website (tut, tut!), but when I find out I will post it here, as he/she need all the credit in the world. Edit: Lighting was designed by the amazing Tim Mitchell .
I would like to say that the lighting for Streetcar was delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever used delicious in a non-food sense, but it seems apt to describe this stunning piece of work.
The lighting design performed a very visual and tangible role role within the show, starting with the beautiful use of the suspended lightbulbs. Okay, so at one point in every lighting design you think about maybe adding in some filament consumer light-bulbs into the show… why? well the look pretty visually, they create a nice warm light, and they are REAL, they can create a reference point to the audience (“ah a light on a string, they must be in livingroom/factory/office”). It’s really difficult then to use them in a clever way, because they are, well, just bulbs.
Streetcar uses light-bulbs in a reallllly clever way. The bulbs are suspended just under the beams in the air. I’m not sure how many there are. I’m going to say loads. There must be about 6 rows of 12 evenly spaced bulbs across the width of the stage. Yep, it was a grid of visible lights. Just this alone made for a very eye pleasing sight, but not only were the just there, EACH and every one of them could individually fly in and out and dim, which was used in such an effective way that I found my self ooh-ing and ahhhing everytime they moved!
The lights were coming in as one big grid creating some isolation and claustrophobia , they were coming in one at a time to represent, well, a bulb, and they even came in and danced row by row in waves to assist in the illusion of the mind of drunken Blanche DuBois. It was just really, really visually pleasing.
The designer’s colour pallet was mouth watering (food analogies again, weird) using real life tints like steely blues, stuffy greys and murky greens to create the real life depression era America, juxtaposed with bold magentas, reds and oranges which dazzled the eye and tricking the audience, and DuBois into to thinking everything may just work out for her. This mixed with the deepest blues and harshest whites to give the eerieness gave the audience a thrilling journey just with colour alone.
The design did a beautiful job in sculpting Niki Turners costume designs with some bold usage of gobos from the side, and soft shaping from behind. The use of hard beams on stage to create tunnels of light created a very stylistic design indeed.
On the perspex covered roof beam, was cast a perfect muddle of shadows by the dancers caught by birdies on the lip of the stage. This added another depth to both the lighting and set design, and was used just the right amount, without becoming distracting.
Ohh did I mention that the boxes get stacked up on one and other and from some of the holes in the boxes created the pixelated letters “H”, “O”, “T”, “E”, and “L” in bright lilac. How cool is that? It’s the icing on the cake (bored of the food analogies yet?), I’ve seen a couple of promo shots with this featured and it makes it look like a stylish movie.
In all, this production is not to missed. Taking my design hat off for a moment, I honestly had goosebumbs by curtain down. It was marvellous.
Streetcar Named Desire IS modern ballet at its finest and I cannot wait to see what Scottish Ballet comes up with next.
I’m making everyone I know in Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen go. And considering going to see it again myself. That good, seriously.
FIVE STARS (effortlessly)
Book here, I implore you! http://www.scottishballet.co.uk/a-streetcar-named-desire/full-booking-details.html
PS. This was my first ever blog on my new website. Go me.
Here’s the trailer: