Scottish Ballet re-works A Streetcar Named Desire
The five star adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play is back on the road
‘She’s almost too sensitive to survive,’ says Eve Mutso, when asked to sum up the character of Blanche DuBois. Few would argue with her description. One of American literature’s most tragic heroines, DuBois wafted out of Tennessee Williams’ pen in 1947, and has fascinated people ever since.
Three years after she first created the role in Scottish Ballet’s A Streetcar Named Desire, principal dancer Mutso is back on stage breathing life into the Southern belle fallen on hard times.
‘It’s been nice to re-visit the role,’ she says during a break from rehearsals. ‘Blanche had a tragic life and is very sensitive and fragile. But when you see the movie, you can find her quite irritating and self-centred.
‘Because I created this role and tried to understand the woman, I have a lot of sympathy for her, and the way we tell the story, she’s not so horrible.’
Mutso is referring to the backstory, an interesting dimension Scottish Ballet added to Williams’ play. Now, the first few scenes take us back to DuBois’ youth (only referred to in the play, not shown) and the events which led to her increased fragility. As Mutso says, ‘it gives the audience a chance to see she was once just a beautiful, innocent young girl, frightened by her discoveries.’
In an unusual move, Scottish Ballet commissioned both a theatre director, Nancy Meckler and a choreographer, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to create the show back in 2012. It was a decision that paid dividends, with A Streetcar Named Desire cited by many as one of Scottish Ballet’s finest moments in recent years.
How does Mutso feel the dual approach of Meckler and Lopez Ochoa helped give the production its emotional depth?
‘With Nancy, we built the skeleton,’ she says, ‘so we went into each scene with very clear ideas, and then Annabelle added the bloodstream and the skin on top. It was a very thought-through process.
‘We ripped away all the scenes that weren’t needed, and out went the unnecessary ballet mime and foot action, which can sometimes distract from the facial expressions. That just left the bare minimum, which is why I think the storytelling comes through so well, because less is more in this case.’