Hot and sticky New Orleans is brought to life in the hot and sticky Pack and Carriage for this rendition of Tennessee Williams’ A Street Car Named Desire. Frantic, fragile and quite strenuous Blanche comes to see her sister Stella for an extended visit. Stella’s husband however, the brisk Stanley, has little to no interest in treating Blanche with kid gloves. Blanche spirals further into madness while Stanley flourishes with the abuse of confronting her with her dark backstory.
For this performance, the entire space (including exits, bathrooms and the area behind the bar!) of the pub is stage to the actors. It is remarkable how they convey the apartment in which the action takes place, even though the “set” is merely a dining table and a couch. A necessity for the troupe, but a powerful way of highlighting the less than enviable conditions Stella married into. The actors themselves are so skilled they could be straight off the West End and never slip out of their American accents.
Lauren Harris and Emma White are outdoing one another as only sisters can in their steel will to keep up appearances. Harris is convincingly all tortured soul and utterly annoying in one. White is so sweet and caring, and absolutely devoted to her husband, it is agonising to see her try to accommodate to the troubled situation she finds herself in. Will Ramsay looms over the women and the play as brutish but disturbingly attractive Stanley. He simply grins away all his wrongdoings with a smile as charming and broad it turns the Cheshire Cat green with envy. Selom Awadzi plays a loveable bear of a man and could be more secure of his acting. However, the audience interaction could have been eased off a little. In a space so intimate as the Pack and Carriage it is virtually impossible not to stumble into the audience or (mis)use them as coat hangers, but in a play where most characters are deeply disturbed and domestic violence is written in big letters, it can be a bit intimidating to be as close to the escalations. Some audience members seemed more than reluctant to participate.
All in all, it was a surprisingly powerful performance of A Street Car Named Desire for which director and producer Vince Gill truly tickles the most out of his actors and the space he is given.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent