Monday, 18 August 2014

Desire unleashed in 'Streetcar'

Theatre stalwart Joe Hasham brings a daring edge to a dance interpretation of A Streetcar Named Desire.

PLAYWRIGHT Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire, has been made into a movie and staged countless times as a musical, a ballet, an opera and a stage play but audiences never tire of watching it.

For the first time, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play was staged as a dance drama (Aug 7-9) in Kuala Lumpur by The Actors Studio Seni Rakyat and presented by JT International Berhad, in collaboration with the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac).

Directed by Joe Hasham, it was an audacious experiment of having Blanche DuBois dance en pointe while the rest of the dancers used contemporary dance as their genre.

Surprisingly, the clash between classical ballet and contemporary dance worked pretty well to create a dramatic effect.

The play tells the story of fading southern belle schoolteacher Blanche who leaves her troubled past behind.

She carts her huge suitcase and moves into her sister Stella’s cramped New Orleans apartment.

Stella’s brutish husband Stanley senses that Blanche is hiding something, and is further annoyed that his poker buddy Mitch is attracted to her. He sets out to make her life miserable.

The confrontation between the two increases in severity until one of the two must be destroyed.

The recent dance drama at KLPac was a totally different take from the theatre version directed by Hasham in 1993 in Kuala Lumpur, which had a passionate onstage kiss shared by actress Ramona Rahman and Andrew Leci, who played Blanche and Stanley.

Back then, the authorities censored certain scenes of that show series.

In this recent performance, Hasham constructed his dance drama using scenes of joy, tragic conflict, lust, passion and seduction.

A highly dramatic soundtrack, composed by music director Bernard Goh (Hands Percussion) and Deborah Tee, backdropped the sensual scenes on stage.

This was his second attempt at staging a full-length dance drama after Passion in 2008.

Stella (Maiya Goshima) and Stanley (Jack Kek) in a passionate duet.

The dance opened with a delicate Blanche dancing solo (portrayed by Japanese ballerina Misako Kato) under the moonlight to a beautiful piano ballad. This was a scene that reflected a touch of nostalgia and mystery.

We knew Blanche had a dark past but it was well concealed with her fluttering around the stage.

It closed with her again dancing under the light but without a soul.

Misako’s grace (as Blanche) combined with an anguished expression was a delight to the eyes.

As the show progressed we saw Blanche’s joyful reunion with Stella (danced by fellow Japanese dancer/actress Maiya Goshima) and a beautiful pas de deux (French for “step of two”) by Stella and Stanley (Jack Kek).

Add a nice little solo by Mitch (Steve Goh), who used a prop (Blanche’s suitcase).

Hasham has to be credited in the many different ways he portrayed the adult-centred scenes.

Kek rose to the challenge with his testosterone raging scenes, while the attraction between Stanley and Blanche was palpable.

However, Goh was merely a shadow when he tried to seduce Misako. The chemistry here was slightly lacking.

Still Hasham adhered to the original storyline (almost) faithfully except that Stella’s pregnancy and delivery were totally omitted.

This full-length dance version of A Streetcar Named Desire, with choreography by Lex Lakshmanan, was stirring enough to make an impression.

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