Guest contributor Paul T. Davies reviews Gallery Players’ A Streetcar Named Desire at The Headgate Theatre for Keep Colchester Cool.


In its previous run at the Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich, this was one of the best productions I saw last year. Now reconfigured for the Headgate stage, the play has lost none of its intensity, if anything it is more claustrophobic, (in a good way),  and involving in the smaller space. Tennessee William’s powerful, sexually charged classic has complex characters, a subtext as important as the words spoken, is set in the American Deep South, and a challenge for any company, yet The Paper Lantern Theatre Company triumphs on all levels.

The design, setting, lighting and a blistering soundtrack, set the mood perfectly, and allow the cast to own the space and grow in character as the story builds. Blanche Dubois, faded Southern Belle, bankrupt, a fantasist and liar, a snob and hopelessly damaged, lands like a time bomb in her sister Stella’s New Orleans apartment. Brilliantly and convincingly played by Rosie Beattie, we understand totally why Blanche hides behind images of herself, and her path towards complete breakdown is heartbreakingly played. The object of her downfall is her brother in law Stanley, a dinosaur when it comes to women’s feelings.  Liam Gregory ‘s  excellent vocal range and characterisation dominated the stage, the tension between the two characters sparking into violence. Caught in the middle is Stella, played by Molly Scurrell,  bringing a maturity to the role that holds the tension high.

The ensemble is terrific, particularly Michael Cook giving a strong performance as the awkward, love struck, potential new beau to Blanche. Director Sally Scurrell gets right under the text and creates astonishing performances. Her genius idea, however, is having the ghost of Blanche’s one true love on stage with her at key moments. It makes such sense; it’s amazing it hasn’t been done before!  Students will appreciate the power of naturalism, everyone else will get caught up in the tension and tragedy that builds like a symphony- a serious, not to be missed theatre experience.

Headgate Theatre until  January 23rd. Box Office 01206 366000


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