A Streetcar Named Desire
Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Neil Cooper
Four stars

A hothouse atmosphere prevails from the start in Elizabeth Newman’s revival of Tennessee Williams’ Deep South 1947 pot-boiler.

You can see the effects of the stifling humidity on the array of plants dotted about designer Emily James’s revolving stage, drooped and wilting as we chase the play’s psychodrama from room to room.

The heat is on in a different way for Blanche DuBois, the woman on the run who blows into the cramped New Orleans home of her sister Stella and her husband Stanley. With the DuBois family fortune having seemingly disappeared along with the lost youth Blanche so desperately clings to, all Blanche can do inbetween bath times is hide in the shadows lest her brittleness be exposed to the glare of Jeanine Byrne’s lighting design and she break into a million pieces and turn to dust.

There is nevertheless a tough intelligence to Kirsty Stuart’s portrayal of Blanche, who in Newman’s production is survivor as much as victim. The latter isn’t just at the hands of Matthew Trevannion’s Stanley, but of an entire society where women are meant to take part in some eternal beauty contest, before being all washed up before they’re 30.

READ MORE: A flavour of the Fringe: 10 shows to whet your appetite

On one level, Nalini Chetty’s Stella seems to have escaped all that, and while you can see the mutual primal appeal in her relationship with Stanley - himself demonised for his Polish roots - in the end it’s hard to sympathise with Stanley’s quickness to raise a hand.

It’s hard to see Stanley here as anything other than a thug and a bully, who treats both Stella and Blanche appallingly.

Blanche’s gradual mental collapse is set to a woozy after-hours jazz soundtrack that grows increasingly cracked under composer and sound designer Pippa Murphy’s stuck-record manipulations. By the end, you fear for where Blanche might end up next beyond her own desires in this subtle but disarmingly fresh look at a 20th century classic.