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Box Theatre Company - A Streetcar Named Desire

11th to 14th May 2005.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Southern discomfort

Box Theatre: A Streetcar Named Desire, at The Watermill, from Wednesday, May 11 to Saturday, May 14

Newbury's Box Theatre company returned to the Watermill for a sell-out production of Tennessee Williams' steamy, Pulitzer Prize-winning A Streetcar Named Desire.

First produced in London in 1949, the play caused instant controversy being called "low and repugnant" in Parliament - and this was after the censors removed hints of homosexuality. Famous because of the iconic film starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh, Streetcar was an ambitious choice for director Duncan Mack and company.

The play is about a power struggle between the beautiful, poetic, deceitful Southern belle, Blanche DuBois and her brutal, animalistic brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. In a macho New Orleans where women know their place, the men work and party hard. Blanche and her sister Stella come from genteel stock, now descended to near-poverty

Arriving at Stella's two-room home, located on the route of the symbolically-named streetcar, Blanche is a compulsive actress who maintains a level of upper class pretence with Stanley and Stella; she mesmerises her hosts with her education, showy clothes, jewels and manners. However, Blanche is as fake as her paste tiara. After discovering Blanche's past as a prostitute, and enduring countless of her lies, Stanley gains a measure of revenge by brutally raping her on the night Stella gives birth. He denies the rape later, and he and Stella get her committed as a mental patient. Low and repugnant indeed.

Sanna Nobbs is compulsively attractive as Blanche, her make-up just a little overdone, her accent just too mannered, as if Blanche can't quite transform herself to convince the rednecks of her higher status.

Duncan Mack, bravely taking over the role of Stanley when another actor pulled out, does not have the physicality or the anger for the role; he is a Morris Minor when a Humvee is needed. However, without Duncan, no show.

The most rewarding performance was from Laura Hamblin as Stella, a quiet, unfussy and seemingly real portrayal of a gentle, ever-so podgy woman who comes alive when in bed with her virile husband.

On points, despite some inappropriately noisy youngsters in the audience, a successful production.