Nuffield Theatre, Southampton – until 31 March 2108 then on tour around the UK. Reviewed by Karen Millington Burnet
Wow, what a fantastic opening night; powerful, passionate and personal! Though an adaptation of the original, which rather took my A level student niece by surprise, the production was faithful enough to be an excellent rendition of the story; and an emotional onslaught from deceptively gentle beginning to explosive conclusion.
Man of the Match goes to Kelly Gough as Blanche who maintained the character and faithful interpretation of the role throughout. The demanding leading role required a maturity of insight and expression which Gough brought to the role in spades – outstanding. She was ably supported by Patrick Knowles’ Stanley and Amber James’ Stella though Stanley would have benefited from being more “animalistic” in appearance and manner. For sheer physicality, I would have been tempted to cast Dexter Flanders in the role of Stanley and Patrick Knowles in the role of Mitch. This would have underlined the point of casting Amber James as a black Stella; the differences between the two sides of the family being further emphasised.
While a young cast and in front of an audience which was, on average, older than I had expected, the whole effect was electric and those who sat around me were spell-bound. The developing threat and violence, Gough’s rape scene and the descent into madness are a powerful tribute to a strong cast led by a convincing actress.
My niece, being a purist student, loved the set but didn’t get the contemporary costumes. However, the staging of the production worked well in general. We agreed to disagree on the cacophonous backing music which tracked the destructive intrusion of Blanche into the troubled but ultimately sound relationship between Stella and Stanley.
There are no hero’s in this play and none of the characters are particularly likeable but I did fall for the production with a strong cast and great production team.
On the whole, thank you; a draining but thoroughly rewarding evening – and we’d love to see this whole production again.