A Streetcar Named Desire – Whisky, Sex and Cigarettes
DEKKADANCERS is a major dance company, significantly influencing the development of contemporary dance and dance theatre and undoubtedly the taste of the audience in a wider context. People simply go to see the “DEKKA’s” and know about them. And that's no small thing.
Under the direction of the dancer, choreographer Štěpán Pechar, Ondřej Vinklát and Marek Svobodník, DEKKADANCERS have performed a number of repertoire performances and various dance and music projects. The original group was founded in 2009 by dancers and choreographers Tom Rychetský and Viktor Konvalinka, who is still active in the company.
For the premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire, based on the famous play by the American writer and playwright Tennessee Williams, they invited the well-known Portuguese choreographer Arthur Pita and his creative team. Pita has his own company, Ballo Arthur Pita, and tours the world with it, while also guest choreographing at The Royal Ballet and Sadler's Wells in London, as well as at San Francisco Ballet and the Joyce Theatre in New York. Arthur Pita is a great storyteller and most of his works are influenced by narrative stories. He excelled at The Royal Ballet with Kafka's The Metamorphosis (2011).
The landmark, now classic psychological drama A Streetcar Named Desire from 1947 has been performed on stages all over the world, has been successfully filmed and was chosen for ballet by the legendary choreographer John Neumeier. Last season, this ballet version was performed by the Czech National Ballet.
The story of the beautiful but aging Blanche DuBois is very dramatic. Blanche arrives unexpectedly to visit her married sister Stella and her rough and tumble husband Stanley Kowalski. From their first meeting, great tension builds between them. Stanley gradually uncovers his sister-in-law's past, which is haunted by delusions and visions. Her husband, who committed suicide because of his sexual orientation, reveals himself to her. One of Stanley's friends, Mitch, is smitten with Blanche, but Stanley thwarts their relationship. Blanche lives in the past, is constantly intoxicated and loses her grip on reality. Stanley wants to get her out of the house and buys her a train ticket as a birthday present. Eventually, he rapes Blanche and has her taken to an asylum.
The way the story is retold is almost dramatic, at times perhaps too realistic. In his production everything is understandable, it is dance theatre in the true sense of the word. However, every detail and every situation is depicted in a dance-like way, and in a very attractive contemporary movement language. The original music and musical arrangement by British composer Frank Moon takes us quite logically to the 1940s, to the hot and rough New Orleans, so that jazz, swing and period shenanigans sound authentically almost all the time. Even the set and costumes by Brazilian-born set designer Yann Seabra illustrate the simple and unpretentious atmosphere and at times evoke film scenes.
The stage and the action on it is played out by a sliding panel that creates a wall and allows a glimpse into the bedrooms, pub or playroom. The arriving tram is represented by the ubiquitous piano. It is fully drawn into the play, not only as a backdrop, but brilliantly played continuously by talented musician and charismatic dancer Ondřej Vinklát as Mitch. Aside from the simple furniture of chairs and tables, there is a bathtub rocking around the stage. The vain Blanche loves a bath.
She is brilliantly played and danced by former soloist of the National Theatre Klára Jelínková. At first she was a bit uptight, but the role of Blanche is so well built that she gradually blended in. She expresses thoughtfully every detail of facial expressions and movement in the behaviour of the complex development the character goes through. From the flirting, the seduction, the showing off, to the notorious shaking and rambling to the mad and sad ending in the insane asylum. Patrik Čermák plays the round-faced, primitive and aggressive Stanley equally well. It is obvious that he enjoys the role very much. And he doesn't have it easy at all in several violent, harshly almost naturalistic duets, first with his wife Stella, Eliška Jirsová, whom he beats, and finally with the hapless Blanche. In type, he is reminiscent of Marlon Brando from the famous 1950s film adaptation in his bluntness and a certain superiority.
Viktor Konvalinka is unique as the gambling Steve Hubbel, but also as a somewhat comical waiter or a staid doctor. Young Albert Kaše dances and sculpts the role of Blanche's husband Allan Grey, who reappears as a ghost. The role of Eunice is played by Tereza Kučerová and Célestine, the blind girl or perhaps death that accompanies the plot, is expressively created by Natalia Metodijeva. She also ends the plot by throwing a large bowling ball.
The rawness of the setting and the bare walls of Jatka78 fits precisely the contrast of make-believe and fiction, of impossible dreams and harsh reality, of the complexity of relationships and conflicts that are surely familiar and still contemporary to the audience. Arthur Pita has also wonderfully made some group situations full of dance, where one can feel the sheer joy of the movement itself. The jazzy swing step material is danced by all with great ease and sovereignty. The unflagging energy and high professionalism of all the performers, I think, exceeded even the director's expectations.
Written from the opening night of November 7, 2023, Jatka78.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Direction and choreography: Arthur Pita
Music: Frank Moon
Set and costume design: Yann Seabra
Production: Pavel Knolle, Tereza Baschová
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