Japanese and Malaysian dancers come together to present a dance drama interpretation of American theatre play A Streetcar Named Desire.
Beneath her veneer of perfect poise and elegance, lies a troubled soul at heart. Blanche DuBois is determined not to let anyone see her waver. So she puts on airs of a woman so cultured and refined, composed and confident in her delusions of grandeur.
Forced to leave her job and family home, the Southern belle decides to park herself at her sister Stella’s place, lugging with her a heavy suitcase filled with her belongings.
But it is the emotional baggage she lugs around that she does not let others see, the pressure that comes with keeping up a pretense intended to protect, that eventually leads to her unravelling.
This affected young lady in Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire, treads a precarious balance between pretension and insanity.
She is thought to be based on Williams’ older sister, Rose Isabel, who struggled with mental health issues for most of her adult life.
The play, written in 1947, is now adopted as a dance drama by The Actors Studio Seni Rakyat and presented by JT International berhad, in collaboration with KLPac.
“A Streetcar Named Desire is charged with passion, anger, love and desire,” says Joe Hasham, KLPac co-founder and artistic director, who directs this dance drama interpretation.
No stranger to this iconic piece of American theatre, this is Hasham’s third outing with the piece.
“In 1970, having just graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia, I played the role of Stanley (Kowalski) in a production in Perth,” he relates of his role as Stella’s brutish and passionate husband, who harbours a general mistrust and deep-rooted hatred of Blanche.
Having gone on to direct The Actors Studio’s 1993 production of the play (featuring Ramona Rahman, Andrew Leci, Sukania Venugopal and Kurt Crocker), Hasham shares that he had always wanted to revisit it. Back then, DBKL censored this theatre version of A Streetcar Named Desire because there was an onstage kiss.
For certain, A Streetcar Named Desire’s infamous history in local theatre will not be repeated at these upcoming dance-centred shows.
“The fact that this new production is a dance interpretation should be exciting. For those who know the play, it will give them the opportunity of experiencing it in a totally different form.
“For those new to it, it is hoped that they will experience an exciting dance production, with outstanding dancers and wonderful original music by Deborah Tee and Bernard Goh,” he says.
This dance drama take on A Streetcar Named Desire is co-directed by Paul Loosley and choreographed by Lex Lakshman.
Japanese ballerina Misako Kato, who trained at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia, takes on the role of Blanche, while Maiya Goshima, who attended the Conservatoire National de Region de Boulogne in France, plays Stella Kowalski.
The other principal dancers are Malaysian Jack Kek, who takes on the role of Stella’s husband Stanley and Steve Goh as Harold “Mitch” Mitchell, the subject of Blanche’s affection.
Both Kek and Goh graduated from the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts.
In an interesting move, Misako, who plays Blanche, will be the only one with a classical ballet-oriented performance in this show. She will be dancing mostly en pointe, in stark contrast with the other dancers who are choreographed in a more “contemporary and contrasting manner.”
“The role of Blanche is frail and fragile with delusions of superiority. My decision to have Blanche perform en pointe was based solely on the makeup of her character, as opposed to the other characters around her,” says Hasham, adding that the production as a whole will see “an even mix” of classical and contemporary dance.
Calling A Streetcar Named Desire “riveting theatre not to be missed”, Hasham relates that he made a conscious decision from the start to have the performers “work from the inside out.”
“Feeling every emotion was to me the most important factor. Once they understood that, then the technique came in. I did not want beautiful images that movements that meant nothing. Understanding what and why they were doing was paramount to the successful storytelling process,” he says.
The show runs for approximately an hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission.
A Streetcar Named Desire will run at Pentas 1, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur) from Aug 7 to 9 at 8.30pm and August 10 at 3pm. The JTI Gala Opening Night on August 7 is by invitation only. Tickets for all other shows range from RM60 to RM100, with special rates available for students, senior citizens, the disabled and TAS Card members. Visit www.klpac.org or call 03-4047 9000 for details.