Trip to ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

It's hard to avoid comparisons between Peake as Blanche and a tragic Marilyn figure ...

It’s hard to avoid comparisons between Peake as Blanche and a tragic Marilyn figure …

Yesterday saw around two dozen students from Years 11-13 travel down to Manchester to watch Tennessee Williams’ famous play at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Dreadful roadworks in central Manchester meant we arrived with scant minutes to spare but it took hardly any time to become immersed in the sights and sounds of late 1940s New Orleans.  In the play, fading beauty Blanche comes to stay in a tiny, claustrophobic flat with her younger sister Stella, who she believes has ‘traded down’ in marrying the common and brutal, yet vital, Stanley Kowalski.  Blanche and Stanley clash from the beginning, and it’s inevitable that Stella (now pregnant) will at some stage have to make an awful choice between her sister and her husband …

In the meantime, Blanche senses an opportunity to carve herself a new life in the city with the gentle and naive Mitch – one of Stanley’s closest buddies.  Yet as Stanley digs into her past for ammunition against her, we realise that she is running from more than just the loss of the family fortune and estate, and wonder whether she can ever escape her past?

Maxine Peake played a wonderfully tragic Blanche, channelling Marilyn Monroe to full effect even as the ghosts of her past began literally circling her on stage.  But the play is also very much about Stella, Stanley and Mitch, and the supporting cast came in for a lot of praise – not least Sharon Duncan Brewster as Stella.  The staging was also very interesting, with a bath full of water separated from the rest of the Kowalski’s flat by a glass screen, and several naked fluorescent tubes scattered about.  Things were obviously well-choreographed, as I kept expecting someone to stand on one of the lights!

There was lots of chatter on the bus on the way back to Ulverston, much of it discussing Blanche’s complex character.  It was good to hear the students so engaged, and this interpretation will definitely help their A Level studies of the play.

As ever, the students were an absolute credit to themselves and to the school.  It was a pleasure to take them on the trip, which we hope they enjoyed as much as we did.

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English Teacher; Shakespeare Geek; Science Fiction Nerd; Adult Fan Of Lego (AFOL); Scrabble Warrior; Television Refusenik. Above all, READER ...

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