Gillian Anderson 'stellar' in A Streetcar Named Desire

Gillian Anderson as Blanche Dubois Behind the curtain: Gillian Anderson as Blanche Dubois

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Gillian Anderson has been praised for her "stellar" turn in a new production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

The Telegraph said the X Files star gave "the performance of her career" as faded Southern belle, Blanche DuBois.

The play opened on Monday at the Young Vic, near London's South Bank.

"I staggered out of this shattering production of Tennessee Williams's bruising modern classic feeling shaken, stirred and close to tears," wrote the Telegraph's Charles Spencer.

"Never have I seen a production of the play that was so raw in its emotion, so violent and so deeply upsetting," his five-star review continued.

"The show lasts three and a half hours, but there isn't a moment when the tension slackens or attention lapses. It is an absolute knock-out."

The 1947 play has been given a twist by Australian director Benedict Andrews who sets it in a modern apartment which revolves almost constantly in front of the audience.

Vanessa Kirby as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire Vanessa Kirby as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire
Gillian Anderson as Blanche Dubois with Ben Foster as Stanley Blanche's (Gillian Anderson) downward spiral brings her face to face with the brutal Stanley Kowalski (Ben Foster)
Ben Foster as Stanley Kowalski Ben Foster as Stanley Kowalski

The story sees an already fragile DuBois completely break down after she moves in with her sister Stella (Vanessa Kirby) and is tormented by her violent brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski (Ben Foster).

"There's no doubt that Gillian Anderson gives a stellar performance as Blanche DuBois," said The Guardian's Michael Billington. "[She] captures both Blanche's airy pretensions to grandeur and her desolate loneliness."

But he had some reservations about keeping the acting space in perpetual motion. "The shifting focus sometimes becomes a distraction and makes the dialogue hard to hear: Just as you're getting into a scene, the characters float out of view."

Michael Coveney, in his WhatsonStage review, observed: "As the cage-like rectangle moves, so does our perspective on the characters, whom we can see now in close-up, now in longshot, through a doorway, in the bathroom.

"It's the best sort of theatre-in-the-round, turning the style's disadvantages and drawbacks to aesthetic triumph."

The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Dalton said that Andrews had approached an American classic "with gravitas and grit".

"In a world where feminism, gay rights and post-modern parodies on The Simpsons are now ingrained in popular culture, the feverish netherworld that Williams depicts perhaps inevitably feels more like shrill melodrama than groundbreaking drama.

"Fortunately, Blanche is the saving grace here, a hugely alluring car-crash heroine in any decade. Top marks to Anderson, who gives great diva and appears to enjoy every minute of it."

A Streetcar Named Desire is at the Young Vic, London, until 19 September. It will be broadcast via NT Live to more than 550 UK cinemas on 16 September.

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