It’s been 9 days since I saw Streetcar Named Desire. The cast, crew, production manager et al are currently packing their bags, checking their itineraries, farewelling friends and promising postcards to those they’ll be missing as the show goes on the road. Or the sky.

The United States awaits. The script is returning home to where it came from- and who knows how this prodigal son will be received.

I can’t help but wonder if it is with flattery or pity that the American’s will regard this production- a bunch of Aussies trying to prove that they can play with the grand classics of the American cannon? I imagine an oily voiced southerner slurring through rye soaked breath- “see- even the best of the Aussie theatre scene still needs our old plays because they can’t make their own!” Touring an American classic to America- its an interesting idea. What if there was a Broadway production of Patrick White’s “The Ham Funeral” and it decided to tour here- how would it be received? I am endlessly fascinated by cultural perspective- and I wonder if these questions have been mulled over at the Upton/Blanchett breakfast table?

The curious thing about this production is a couple of things- the way it has been reviewed- a strange starry-eyed gush from several reviewers- EG from The Australian: “Cate Blanchett’s Blanche Dubois is magnificent.Her almost ethereal beauty, as she floats and staggers around Stella and Stanley’s claustrophobic little apartment, is so fragile and vulnerable that the mask of self-confidence that she has created as the belle of Belle Reve is as thin as the paper of the Chinese lantern with which she covers the naked light in their bedroom. Her willowy resilience, revealed in brief wild outbursts, keeps surfacing as a shock.”

It’s true- I understand the feeling of awe which washes over us when we are in the presence of the mythic Cate Blanchett- she seems so elegant- so impressive- that one would feel frightened to breath on her as she seems like she is made of spun moonlight. I get it- as a heterosexual woman, as a reviewer, as an audience member I get it- she is gorgeous and mysteriously powerful.

However- I think there are a few things that left me puzzled and dissatisfied about Streetcar. Which partially had to do with the bizarre set- many friends and colleagues mentioned they were expecting the giant grey wall to move- I just was perplexed at the design.

Kevin Jackson’s reflections on the set are impressive, he cites many visual references and describes the set in terms of gender- “Visually the masculine weight of this enormous wall presses down onto the pink “vagina” of the woman’s domain, the home, and contains it.”

I understand the close living quarters of the domestic home in a literal sense- for me there is always a presence of other people in this script- they high density of their apartment means that they can hear their neighbours, the streetcars, the noise of the street- they hear the domestic feuds and the passionate love- making- it is a space where secrets cannot be kept. There is a thin curtian which separates the living quarters to the bedroom of the tiny apartment- things are heard. This is an apartment where the throbbing, teeming life of the people around them in the Quarter interject and compete for attention. This aspect of the “world” of this play was ignored.

Curiously aswell, the heat of this play was absent. Knowing this play to describe the heat- the reason why the hot baths of Blanch seem so bizarre- and why skimpy clothes are necessary- no just for the implied sexual uncovering they represent- the oppressiveness of true heat, smothering, claustrophobic heat was missing. And not just physical heat- emotional heat was missing.

Could it be the star casting that got in the way of my reading of the energy between Edgerton and Blanchett? The fact that I could barely believe the sexual energy? Yes Cate is gorgeous, yes Joel has a splendid body- but as a combination- did I think that there was a real genuine intense sexual tension? No. I’m sure that this is just me. The fact I know this play, that I have seen the film with Brando/Leigh, that I know these actors and their celebrity lives- could I possibly believe it? No. I guess I am too smothered in context- too overwhelmed by the offstage to really feel or see the on stage.

My experience of this show was not one of deep emotional investment- but a cerebral journey- seeing the actors hit their marks and tell a very straight forward journey of the story. A story which I know. A story which I love. A story worth telling.

Strangely, I didn’t really feel connected to Blanche- who is a victim of circumstance, or a victim of her own choices. A play which I have cried when reading , seemed strangely devoid of anything that connected me emtionally to the world of the play.

Was it because beautiful Cate’s life overwhelmed me? Was it because her celebrity status made it harder for me to believe that she truly understood what it means to have no options left? Or truly understands what it means to feel like a burden- to be on your last dollar- and having to depend on the kindness of strangers? I found it difficult.

But others- in fact people who have not studied the script nor seen the film thought it was wonderful production. For me, I found it lacking: pedestrian, mechanical paint- by- numbers style of theatre. And that’s probably just me… and I’m ok with that.

And I hold it to be universally true- that a brilliant script will shine through the dullest production. Just as a celebrity will eclipse the most hardworking annonymous actors.

Regardless-I’m glad I saw it- and I’m glad I am still wrestling these questions about culture, celebrity, design, script, context- priceless!

Bon voyage Streetcar!