Watch: A Streetcar Named Desire ~ National Theatre Live

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

At the weekend I watched a play at the cinema. Yep, not a film, a play. Lemme explain.
A Streetcar Named Desire, the seminal Tennessee Williams play became the fastest selling production in The Young Vic's history earlier this year...meaning I could not get my hands on tickets for love nor money. I was pretty devastated...I tweeted for help. I mentioned it to anyone I could. I even begged an actor I kinda-sorta know who was in the production. All roads led to nada.

So I was pretty bloody chuffed with myself when I began to hear more and more about National Theatre Live, mostly through the power of social media, which is actualy an invaluable tool when it comes to staying in the loop about the arts, which is less publicised than it ought to be, but that's another blog post. Basically National Theatre Live is a pretty incredible project of the National's: it broadcasts "the best of British theatre live to cinemas across the UK and around the world". Pretty awesome. The broadcasts have now been seen by over 3.5 million people in over 1,100 venues around the world, 550 of which are in the UK alone. Live broadcasts are filmed with the theatre audience present, with cameras dotted about the auditorium to get the best possible views. Satellites allow the production to be shown without delay, or they can be viewed later (for those that missed out like me). Past National productions have included The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime, War Horse and Danny Boyle's King Lear as well as productions from other theatres like Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse and of course, The Young Vic's A Streetcar Named Desire.

Directed by Benedict Andrews, Williams' play set in New Orleans about the collapsing world of Southern Belle Blanche du Bois, when she visits her sister Stella and her new husband Stanley Kowalski. With a modern spin by way of costume and literal spin of the slowly spinning set in the centre of the auditorium (the play was performed in the round), the sticky heat of the French Quarter and powder keg of emotions are played out with incredible tension. Not really knowing much of Gillian Anderson's work other than the X Files, I was blown away by her performance of delicate, fading dame Blanche. Vanessa Kirby was great as Stella and Ben Foster was a study in brutal force and testosterone laden manly scariness...the acting was supreme.

Watching a play at the cinema was odd but in a good way; we could see up close the distress in Anderson's eyes, Fosters' disdain through a curled lip, which is something you don't usually get to witness so closely in big theatres. Obviously, the cinema is not quite the same experience, but in some ways the palpable tension on stage and also with the stage audience, who the cinema audience get to see, translated back into the cinema. We were riveted.
It was almost revolutionary to me, being able to pop along to my local Wandsworth cinema (which was PACKED and in a huge screen) and see the magic of a stage performance. I'd recommend it to anyone who can't get along to the theatre, or like me, just can't get hold of any tickets.

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