Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A Streetcar Named Desire at Manchester Royal Exchange

After a reading at Poetry Cafe - Refreshed in Cheltenham last Wednesday night, followed by a poetry brochure delivery run to Weston-Super-Mare after work on Thursday, Friday saw me driving up to Leeds to stay with my elder daughter, before heading across to Manchester the next day to see 'A Streetcar Named Desire' at the Royal Exchange.  

Saturday was also Labour Leadership Election Mark II day. This felt inauspicious for two reasons, for as my daughter reminded me, the day after the last General Election we had travelled together to Liverpool to see the Leonora Carrington exhibition, our only solace on a murky day when the sun didn't even rise. And the day after the disaster that was the EU Referendum, which has given rise to such a surge in hate crime, my partner and I had picked her up in Leeds and taken her to North Yorkshire for a few days' break.  Things come in threes, we decided. Were we going to be treated to another major political disappointment at the hands of a deeply undemocratic Labour Party, which had removed her and her siblings' right to vote - despite pocketing their money? 

Happily, the answer was No. And the play, starring another Corbyn supporter, Maxine Peake, as Blanche DuBois, was superb. I have to admit, I couldn't quite envisage the forthright, no nonsense Boltonian as the vulnerable yet manipulative mistress of self-delusion beforehand, but she embodied her brilliantly, a portrayal which was complemented by the rest of the excellent cast.   

Photograph: Manuel Harlan

But above all, I was struck by Tennessee Williams' gift for writing such fascinating, flawed and utterly believable characters, in works which address what we tend to think of as the most current of themes - poverty, sanity, sexism, class prejudice, racism, domestic violence, sexuality, grief. I left the theatre itching to revisit his plays, on page and stage. 

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