Review: A Streetcar Named Desire, West Yorkshire Playhouse

By October 21, 2014

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

[Photo: Topher McGrillis Photography]


Thursday 18th September
A Secret Theatre Production

@ West Yorkshire Playhouse


Sean Holmes, the Artistic Director of Lyric Hammersmith, created the Secret Theatre Company in 2013. His vision was to create a provocative experience for the audience and in this respect the Secret Theatre Company is undeniably a success

His experimental production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire tries to shine a new, starker, brighter light on the play. It strips away the bluesy New Orleans setting, the late September haze and the cluttered flat in Elysian Fields, creating so much of the play’s atmosphere, replacing these with simply three white walls. Clinical, devoid of decoration and utterly unrecognisable, the set sits and stares at the audience; it is defiant in its indifference to the detailed description of place and setting given by the playwright.

Nadia Albina, the actress who plays Blanche, and Sergo Vares as Stanley, struggle to bring the essential smoulder and blaze of this volatile relationship in such a deprived and open set. The Blanche of Williams’ play finds her setting claustrophobic, yet the Blanche of this production moves too easily through the space; she is too powerful. The Blanche of the Secret Theatre Company is a power dresser. She enters the production clad in a white power suit with a persona and attitude to match. This is an adaption of Blanche that fans will not recognise and many will not like. For me the play simply does not work if Blanche is not fragile. After all, the play centres on her quest for stability and culminates in her absolute decline into mental and worldly instability.



[Photo: Topher McGrillis Photography]


Uncomfortable with Holmes goading re-working of Streetcar this production proved that Williams’ masterpiece remains, for now, in the era and setting it was originally placed in. I do believe however that theatre should be tested, and what this brave reclamation does achieve is a voice for Stella (Adelle Leonce). For me Stella has never been the star. Blanche’s exclamation of ‘Stella, Stella for star!’ has always seemed characteristic of Blanche’s theatrics. Yet the Secret Theatre Company expose an interesting, sarcastic Stella. One whom I have never seen in any other production of Williams’ play. Adelle Leonce highlights certain lines and makes Stella more human and less peripheral than I have ever seen or considered her to be.

This is theatre that experiments. Radically. It will make you think, it might make you angry, and it might make you laugh. Whether you love it or hate it, you won’t walk away without an opinion.

For more information on the Secret Theatre Company and future productions – in Hull, Manchester, Warwick and North Finchley – visit the website:

Hannah Spruce


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