• Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Review: Scottish Ballet’s A Streetcar Named Desire

ByEmily Moffett

May 8, 2023
Image of Ballet dancer from the show

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Scottish Ballet’s A Streetcar Named Desire is a magnificent, heart-wrenching depiction of loss and abuse. The dancers are charismatic forces of nature on the stage of the Festival Theatre, pouring their hearts and souls into portraying the complicated and tragic lives of their characters. This mesmerising production will leave you melancholy, yet A Streetcar Named Desire is undeniably worth watching. Bravo — the Scottish Ballet has done it again. 

Based on the play by Tennessee Williams, the ballet follows the harrowing life of Blanche DuBois (Marge Hendrick) as she travels from Mississippi to New Orleans and experiences an array of misfortunes and misjudgements. After the traumatic suicide of her husband, after she catches him with another man, Blanche is forever haunted by his memory. As a result of Alan’s death, she is launched into a whirlwind of debauchery and depression. 

From the beginning, unique theatrical touches promise an extraordinary show. In a few scenes, dancers repeatedly walk purposefully across the stage like little ghosts, complementing the drama on stage with a sense of organised chaos and continuous movement. Moreover, the entire production is set below eerie, hanging light bulbs. This ingenious set design shows how, like a moth to light, Blanche is drawn to trouble and vice. Blanche’s trauma and struggles with memory are brilliantly depicted through the use of a young Blanche who dances around Marge Hendricks, taunting and tormenting. 

The music is nothing short of sensational. Peter Salem’s score is a delectable mix of sounds from upbeat jazz to sombre violin melodies. The Scottish Ballet Orchestra plays the music to perfection, and I enjoyed looking into the orchestra pit occasionally and watching the jazzy saxophones and elegant strings. Sound is also utilised through methods other than the orchestra. Stanley repeatedly yells ‘Stella’ on stage. The hair-raising screams are powerful and unsettling, surprising the audience. In another scene, a radio on stage plays popular jazz tunes between interpolated segments of morose orchestra music. 

The decadent costumes and corps-de-ballet are delectable. Shiny slips, stiff suits, frilly nightgowns, and fashionable dresses transport the audience to New Orleans in the 1940s. The dancers in the corps really bring the production to life as well. From frolicking at weddings to playing mischievously in the streets of Louisiana, the corps is a strong presence in the ballet that keeps the show feeling unified.

Marge Hendricks is electrifying as Blanche. Her long, controlled extensions and the admirable artistry of her movements make her a joy to watch. She portrays Blanche’s agonised desperation with elegant poise and tenderness. Furthermore, Ryoichi Hirano, as Stanley, is powerful and menacing. His artistry is flawless, and he perfectly emanates the manipulative charisma of his character. Audiences should be forewarned that the content is exceedingly graphic and distressing, but the dancers handle this deplorable content with commendable talent and nuance. 

Scottish Ballet’s A Streetcar Named Desire is a testament to the unique power of dance. Hearts break for Blanche as she dances in anguish on stage, and multiple times I felt a pounding in my chest as I breathlessly watched the story unfold. Through the vehicle of ballet, A Streetcar Named Desire shares the story of a troubled girl trapped in a menacing world of madness and violence. 

The Festival Theatre, May 3rd-6th

Images by Andy Ross provided via Press Release