It’s Festival time and in recent iterations that has meant, along with a big audience production (this year Morricone, last time Mahler) there is in each festival some foreign theatre that just fails.
A Streetcar is a French production based on Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. On arrival for the patrons last night, the big Festival theatre stage possessed a long glass rectangular cuboid which formed an at times stunning secondary stage within the main as a modern bathroom. Beneath lay ten pin bowling pins which were of no great assistance at all. To attempt to help us through the French, a screen for surtitles was perched above the stage.
The perception of the worth of much of modern art seems nowadays to be to lay it on as big and as bold as one can imagine, dress it up as avant-garde and look down on those in the audience who don’t get it or dare to ask the question whether the new emperor has any clothes.
A Streetcar is one of those productions that whatever merits it may be afforded in Paris they have failed to make the trip to Adelaide.
For starters, the rat-a-tat dialogue, especially of Blanche, played by the much acclaimed Isabelle Huppert, was simply too quick for the sub-titler and indeed caused a break down early on. (The use of en English grammarian on what was shown may also have been of value.) The signing by Eunice was horrible, over amplified (if not redundant) and delivered with little stage aplomb. The portrayal of Blanche was unhappy; there was no way this unhinged sex fiend could ever win sympathy in our hearts. There was some nudity that often was gratuitous and the whole production necessitated an audience, stuck in their chairs for near on 2 ½ hours, to sustain an attention across at least two eye levels, making for a most uncomfortable experience.
As mentioned, art nowadays can be quite condescending to its patrons but at some point it is they, and only they, who pay the bills. A Streetcar was simply over ambitious, with too little done to make the shift from one country to another work. At the end of the day, a play stands and falls on its message but when an audience has to struggle so hard to make head or tail of what is happening, no amount of fancy bathroomware, video or histrionics can close the gap. This Streetcar simply left its audience behind.