The Workshop Players present ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Tennessee Williams in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Lionel Wendt at the Lionel Wendt Theatre from July 18-21. The play is directed by Jerome L. de Silva and presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Ltd. As they prepare to stage Tennessee Williams’ iconic [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Intensity is the key to the play

Breaking away from the signature mega productions of the Workshop Players, the cast of Tennessee Williams’ iconic play, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ discuss their challenging roles with Smriti Daniel

The Workshop Players present ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Tennessee Williams in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Lionel Wendt at the Lionel Wendt Theatre from July 18-21. The play is directed by Jerome L. de Silva and presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Ltd.

As they prepare to stage Tennessee Williams’ iconic play, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ the Workshop Players are braced for a truly challenging performance. A play with adult themes, this will represent a decided change of pace for the company in-between taking on two epic musicals – ‘Evita’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ – but for Mario De Soyza, Bimsara Premaratne, Andre Perera and Shanuki de Alwis, it’s a chance to grow as actors. Here they tell the Sunday Times what we should expect when the play goes on the boards at the Lionel Wendt later this week.

Shanuki on playing Stella:

The Streetcar cast: From left - Anuk de Silva (Steve Hubble), Dinesha Senaratne (Eunice Hubble), Mario De Soyza ( Stanley Kowalski) , Bimsara Premaratne (Blanche DuBois), Shanuki de Alwis (Stella Kowalski) and Andre Perera (Mitch). Pic by Indika Handuwala

“She [Stella] is a complete anti-thesis of who I am,” Shanuki says. Her role is also, she admits, the quieter one though Stella is no less interesting for being somewhat subservient to the tumultuous Blanche. The two women are sisters – both having fled the past down different routes but are now forced to confront it in a little apartment in New Orleans.

Growing up, the two women were typical Southern belles. “Blanche was always the prettier one, the more outgoing one and so Stella was born and bred to play Blanche’s little doormat,” says Shanuki.

Stella is now married to Stanley. Caught between Stanley and Blanche, each who do little to conceal their loathing of the other, Shanuki sees Stella as “the middle ground”. “She balances the two off, she’s got a little of them both in her.” The sexual chemistry between Stella and Stanley is palpable even in the script. Switching that on onstage hasn’t been a problem says Shanuki. “Mario and I have been onstage lovers longer than anyone (in the Workshop Players) ever has…We’ve been husband and wife, we’ve been lovers.It’s absolutely no problem to turn on the chemistry.” Having the other actor in the play– Andre -be a part of her offstage life ensures the cast is tightly knit. All of them agree that newcomer Bimsara fits right in.

The challenge the four actors face is “to go beyond the words, to create an intensity in every scene”. Conceding that this production is different from previous Workshop Players productions, Shanuki says it’s a little unnerving to have to make do without the lights, the flashy costumes or the music. “This play is stripped completely bare and it’s very cerebral.” She’s hoping they’ll be able to pull it off.

Mario on playing Stanley:

Though Marlon Brando may have delivered the defining version of Stanley onstage, Mario isn’t a huge fan. “He’s got that thing that works for him – the slur in his voice, the accent…” There’s also that smouldering sex appeal. Mario speculates that women in particular are drawn to Brando’s performance, and after having read about Tennessee Williams’ plans for his characters he knows the playwright didn’t intended the character to be sexy. “That was what Marlon Brando brought to the role,” says Mario. “He was never meant to be this object of desire. If I try to replicate that, I’m going to fail miserably.” So instead of patterning his portrayal on Brando’s he’s allowed the character to develop organically in response to the script.

He’s enjoying the challenge of portraying someone who embodies so many contradictions – Stanley is capable of great emotional and even physical violence, but his softer side is also in evidence. Still, this doesn’t take away from the sheer threat he embodies. “In my opinion, Stanley is one of the most scary characters of our time as far as theatre is concerned,” says Mario. Still, he’s enjoying the opportunity to “explode on stage,” and to play someone so manipulative that he “grinds” weaker minds into pulp.

Mario, who was last seen in ‘Evita’, describes ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ as “a million times more challenging” and a “massive change. “There’s no getting through this with a song. It’s just you and the audience. No jokes, no slapstick. It’s all intense dialogue up and down.”

Bimsara on playing Blanche:

The new girl on the cast, Bimsara says her first experience with the Workshop Players has been a good one. Cast in the role of Blanche, Bimsara has been forced to portray someone who is a jumble of contradictions, a personality constantly in flux. “The challenge of being Blanche is that she doesn’t stay one consistent person, there are these completely different personalities that she adopts for different people. It’s like changing hats.”

Fragile beauty: Bimsara Premaratne as Blanche. Pic by Andre Perera

Blanche may be fickle, but she’s sensitive and intuitive.“Mario plays a very intense Stanley and I have had to match it up with a very intense Blanche…This is probably the most difficult part I’ve ever played,” says the actress whose previous credits include ‘Move Over Mrs. Markham’.

Bimsara sees the conflict between Stanley and Blanche as a conflict between two worlds – the old, seemingly refined world of the plantations in contrast to the rough and tumble one of immigrants intent on living the American dream. While Bimsara has been exploring the nuances of the Blanche’s relationship with Stanley and with Stella, it’s Mitch who she’s most interested in. “Mitch is the last ray of hope for Blanche,” she says. For her the essence of the play is in the “falling of Blanche” and how “every other character, Stella, Mitch and Stanley, all of them also fall, but in different kinds of ways.”

Andre on playing Mitch:

Andre admits to having a lot in common with his character – they’re both quiet and shy for starters.“I’m kind of like Mitch and so I play a lot of my own feelings and emotions when it comes to this character.” Mitch, who lives with his ill mother, is being pressured to find a wife and settle down before she dies. For a while Blanche seems a likely candidate. Describing his character as the “odd one out” in the quartet, Andre says Mitch is terrified of ending up alone and will do all he can to avoid it.

Stanley and Mitch used to be in the army, and he meets Blanche through his friend.Most of his appearances on stage are opposite her. Andre says working with a smaller cast has allowed them to generate intense rehearsals that he hopes will translate into a good performance. Fresh from a staging of ‘Sherlock’ by Silent Hands, he says he’s enjoying taking on a meatier role.

The main sponsor is Nations Trust Bank, media sponsors are Daily Mirror and the Sunday Times while the radio sponsor is Lite FM and the advertising sponsor is TBWA\TAL.

Share This Post

comments powered by Disqus

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.