Streetcar: Running from Reality

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for this post, which I couldn’t not write (haha – figure that double negative out!). I did get a running reference in the title though….So if you’ll indulge me for a little bit….

 

Last night I saw a Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic, my newest favourite place in London. This is the second play I’ve seen there, and this old classic was given a modern and extraordinary face lift, starring Gillian Anderson. Classic theatre and GA: a winning combination in my book. I’ve loved The X-Files since I was a teen, as those who knew me at the time will remember… We don’t need to talk about how long ago that was, but suffice it to say that I watched it the first time it aired, back in the day when, if you missed an episode, it would disappear into the black hole, never to be seen again. None of this new-fangled, on-demand stuff. Scully was my height, had red hair (at the time), and kicked ass every week: the perfect role model for a ginger 13 year old girl. If you’re still not convinced, check out this video.

 

Anyway. The basic story of Streetcar is that Blanche visits her little sister Stella and her husband Stanley in New Orleans. At first she appears to be an alcoholic snob, but as the play goes on you realise she’s actually teetering on the edge of madness – and her brother-in-law is the one to push her over the edge.

Even the exterior of the Young Vic is cool. Lovely Sunny London.

Even the exterior of the Young Vic is cool. Lovely Sunny London.

 

Like a pro, I watched without my own fan bias getting in the way – I studied English Lit at uni, dontcha know, and objectivity is the name of the game. The stage was in the middle of the room, with seats all around. Once the play began –  as Blanche took her first drink – the stage started to rotate, and rotated slowly throughout the whole performance.

 

This is the first really cool thing about this production as you always be have a fresh perspective of the characters. What angle you see impacts how you interpret the events and who you sympathise with: when Blanche unleashes a tirade against Stanley to her sister, I saw exactly what he saw: the back of his sister-in-law, hearing her ugly words, and watching his wife’s reaction. It united us with him, and made us spectators feel like we’ve intruded: #awkward. We are more engaged as an audience as we see characters in their ‘down’ time, brushing their teeth for example, at the same time as the main action.

 

Elysium Fields, New Orleans....

Elysian Fields, New Orleans….

 

The second cool thing about this play is that it’s set in the modern day. Blanche suffered a trauma with her first true love, and consequently went on a bit of a promiscuity bender. She’s not one for making great choices, but these days I don’t think her sexual past would raise too many eyebrows (apart from her penchant for 17 year olds). So maybe it’s not social rejection that unstabilises her, but the intimate rejection by her lovers, paving the way for the climax. Plus both Stella and Blanche rely on men to provide, posing interesting questions about their place in this ‘modern’ world. Some phrases don’t sit very comfortably today: Blanche refers to the plantation, and calls her gay husband a degenerate.  But I think that’s part of the illusion Blanche is desperate to create, and as a result, she’s off-kilter and inappropriate.

 

Blanche

 

And the third cool thing is the cast. Not going to lie: they are all very good to look at, and they had great chemistry. GA is a teeny, tiny person: though we’re the same height, her waist is about as big as my left calf, and her calves tell me she’s not a hill runner, unlike yours truly 😉 She knows her character inside out, and she conveys as much, or maybe more, through what she doesn’t say as through what she does say.  Blanche is delicate, manic and manipulative – I wanted to give her a cup of very sweet tea and a big hug. Stella (Vanessa Kirby) has great stage presence, and plays a little sister who’s loathe to be pushed around, but struggles to remain loyal to both Stanley and Blanche. And Ben Foster’s Stanley is well built, has a kind face but a hot head, and his sister-in-law brings out his worst as he forces her to ground her hysterical whimsy in reality. You get the impression he’d prefer not to lash out (until the climax), but doesn’t know how else to react. Blanche’s arrival makes him feel the same as she does – helpless – but instead of withdrawing from reality, he crashes through it leaving devastation in his wake.

 

Blanche, Stanley and Stella

Blanche, Stanley and Stella

 

And then, the climax. It was so uncomfortable – the rotating stage made you feel like such a voyeur, seeing Blanche’s mental breakdown from all angles as she feels in more and more danger in the place where she sought safety.  And it is so tragic: all of these characters desire a meaningful connection with each other, and no one’s happy in the end. Somewhat ironically, it’s the put-upon Stella who seems the most balanced and happy, and those around her are floating in the ether, trying to anchor themselves to her stability.

 

And then, after the show, GA was kind enough to sign programs for fans. So that was really generous of her, after slowly and publicly going mad for 3.5 hours. The show is being broadcast around the world on September 16 with National Theatre Live, and you can bet your ass I’m going to see it again. It’s the most striking theatre I can remember seeing.

 

Anyway, thanks for reading. We will resume our normal running-related services from tomorrow.

 

Ellie B

Friday Favourites

After a scorcher of a week, the temperature has cooled down just in time for the weekend, which of course is what everyone wants.  The one good thing this is that my 10k run this evening was more comfortable!

 

Now I’ve got my little legs up resting after the run, here are the things I’ve been loving recently. It’s been a month since the last one! Prepare to have your mind blown…..

 

  • Boyhood. We saw this film on Wednesday and I have never seen anything like it. It’s a story of a couple raising their two children over a period of 12 years, focusing on the boy’s experience. But you guys: this film actually follows the same cast over a period of 11 years. Filming started in Summer 2002, when the boy was 7, stopping in 2013, and you see how relationships, tastes and lives change. When the boy becomes a teenager, he spouts some of the crap that I remember believing so much (oh man we’re all slaves to the man, the machine, nothing’s really real, like really real), making it quite long, but figuring stuff out for yourself is all part of growing up. So I can forgive it those things because it’s so unique and generally lovely.

Boyhood

  • Suri’s Burn Book. To be honest, I’m not sure I want to share this blog with you, because I love it so much and you might think me vacuous and shallow. I do have an active interest in the Hollywood scene, because I need to know what’s hot and what’s not for when I’m a successful actress. I mean, I don’t want to look like an idiot by turning down a dinner invitation with Olivia Wilde in favour of Emma Stone, when it should have been the other way around. And if you thought there wasn’t a social order among the mini-celebs, you’re kidding yourself. Currently Suri Cruise and Blue Ivy Carter are vying for top spot*. This blog pokes fun at the pecking order and the self-importance of that world: it’s highly educational, highly accurate (I’m sure), and highly highly amusing. For example:

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 18.08.19

Source

  • The Events. I saw this play at the Young Vic in London for £10, and it was the best £10 I have spent in ages. It’s a 90 minute play focusing on a lesbian priest who tries to cope in the aftermath of a mass shooting in her choir – oh yes, the subject’s grim. But the play is not! It covers loads of themes – identity, being a minority, what it means to heal, to be a victim, to take responsibility – but it is also really, really funny and touching. There are only two actors, with a choir, and the singing was a character in their own right. Each night a different local choir performs too, which is cool. If you’re in London with £10 to spare before August 2nd, this is definitely something you should see!!

The events

 

  • My Trusty Tennis Hat. I got my hat at the Australian Open 6 years ago, and it’s become my running security blanket. Over the years it has served me well, but especially in the last two weeks when I’ve either been running in glorious but painful sun, or relentless but refreshing rain. If I could recommend one piece of running kit that is an absolute necessity it would be a good hat (well, maybe after I recommend shoes and a sports bra). It stops you finishing your runs looking like a strawberry, and keeps the rain from dripping down your cheeks. Please enjoy this collage of love dedicated to my hat:
I love my hat

L-R: Great North 10k 2014, Edinburgh Marathon 2014, Keswick Lakeland Trail 2012, Sydney Sun Run 2011, Great North 10k 2014, Bristol 10k 2011, Run to the Beat 2013. Middle: a moment with my hat.

 

I need to get some new running tops.

 

Just four things today! Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout was a top contender, and Caitlin Moran would definitely have made the list if I’d seen her in Edinburgh last week. Apparently Edinburgh’s too far to go for an evening, even to see Ms. Moran. I’m still not convinced.

 

I would LOVE to hear what you are loving this week. You’ve taken the time to read mine, which I most definitely appreciate, let me know what you’re loving too so I can broaden my horizons away from Hollywood and old hats  :)

 

Ellie B

 

*If you don’t know who any of the people are that I’ve just mentioned , then you need to come back to me when you’ve done some homework.