[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/91902?ns=guardian&pageName=Broadway+theatre+review%3A+Cate+Blanchett+dazzles+in+A+Streetcar+Named+Des%3AArticle%3A1314014&ch=Stage&c3=GU.co.uk&c4=Stage%2CCate+Blanchett%2CTennessee+Williams%2CTheatre%2CCulture+section&c6=Ed+Pilkington&c7=09-Dec-03&c8=1314014&c9=Article&c10=Review&c11=Stage&c13=&c25=&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2FCate+Blanchett[/img]Despite a flat-batteried opposite number in Joel Edgerton, Blanchett's Blanche pours life into a new production of Tennessee Williams's classic
Towards the end of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, the tragically self-deluded Blanche Dubois stares out of the window and with a flick of the wrist exclaims: "I don't want realism, I want magic!" Cate Blanchett, in a new production that opened in New York on Monday night, uttered the words with such wistful longing that she caught perfectly Blanche's burden and self-denial. A performance that began strongly and ended triumphantly earned Blanchett a standing ovation at the BAM Harvey theatre.
Streetcar is a high-risk undertaking for anyone, inviting as it does comparison with the black-and-white splendour of the 1951 film version. Blanchett plays the role with much less coquettishness than did Vivien Leigh, holding the audience's attention by revealing, gradually, the extent of her deceptions. Her subtle depiction of Blanche's double dealings in the first half of the play means that when she is forced to drop her guard towards the denouement, the crash is all the more devastating: Blanchett droops into a rag doll, as though her life force has been drained from her.
It would be good to be able to say such glowing things about her opposite number, Joel Edgerton, of Star Wars: Episodes II and III fame, playing Stanley Kowalski. It's doubly unfair to draw the comparison here, but, well, there is little avoiding it: Edgerton is no Marlon Brando. When Brando plays the role of the thuggish Stanley, sexual energy sparks from every pore.
Yes, Edgerton is able enough. He plays the oaf and does the brutish things Stanley does in suitably brutish ways; but there's little of that electricity, and without that it's hard to make sense of the play. Why should Stella, an intelligent, well-educated young woman, stay with such a lout? And why should Blanche declare, "From the first time I met him I thought that man will be my executioner, he will destroy me"?
Stanley does destroy her, but in Edgerton's hands he does so in too routine a fashion. That in turn skews Liv Ullman's otherwise admirable production. Ingmar Berman's muse was lured to direct Streetcar by Blanchett initially in Sydney. She maintains a simple set, sparing us gimmickry and allowing the acting to flourish. Yet with a flat battery in Stanley, all the focus falls on Blanche. And no matter how stellar Blanchett's performance is, she cannot be expected to carry such a intricately woven play on her shoulders alone.
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Guardian: New York theatre review: Cate Blanchett dazzles in A Streetcar Named Desire
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