Williams – Venekei – Dés: A Streetcar Named Desire – ballet, Erkel Theater
A Streetcar Named Desire is considered to be the greatest play of Tenessee Williams. It was adapted uncountable times and inspired several creators. His lines are quoted even today, but does the story work without words?
It is my favorite play. I have read at least 5 times, I have seen more adaptations in theater and cinema so I have a very clear vision of Blanche and Stanley. So honestly I was concerned but in the same time excited to see the latest premiere of the Hungarian National Ballet in June. My worries disappeared after the first few minutes. Although the first scene made me think whether I am in the wrong theater watching West side story, but then Blanche appeared on the stage… She wore a white dress, holding a suitcase in her hand, looking around puzzled in the back. And the music summarized everything about her. All emotions, all tragedies, all lies.
The music was composed by László Dés. According to an interview with him he always chose the genre to reflect the plot and the emotions of the characters. Every character ’owns’ an instrument which fits its personality and story the best. There are big band, modern jazz, symphonic music etc.
The ballet follows the play. There are no recognizable changes, all discussions, all characters appear on the stage in the original order however everything is understandable even without knowing the details of the play. As this is a premiere and the choreography was fine-tuned based on the cast, all movements fit the dancers body and extraordinary abilities artlessly. Mariann Venekei’s choreography is rather contemporary with classic elements. The only one wearing a pointe shoe is Blanche.
Blanche is not an easy character even for an actress, and definitely not a typical ballerina role, much more complex than e.g. Giselle or Cinderella. Her entire life has been affected by the suicide of her young husband followed by series of deaths in her family. She doesn’t want realism, she prefers magic. She wants all ugly truths covered with the beauty of imagination, “After all, a woman’s charm is fifty percent illusion.” When the illusions were demolished, Blanche was also destroyed.
I was lucky to see both Jessica Carulla Leon and Balaban Cristina as Blanche. They are both beautiful and talented ballerinas, however their Blanche differed a tiny little bit. Jessica emphasized bit more the fragile side, while Christina danced a more dramatic character but both of them arrived at the same, cathartic end.
Stanley is controlled by his natural instincts, he has to be the king of the house and defending his position, his marriage, his way of life when he feels any danger. Blanche means a threat so he has to strike back and win over her. Undoubtedly Balázs Majoros IS Stanley on the stage (who expected that someone can beat Marlon Brando?). He owns the role, his presence is as instinctive and as crude as it should be.
Although the details of the original play cannot be explained only with movements, the emotions, the tension and the passion is precisely expressed with the combination of the suggestive music and expressive choreography. Even more than with only words. We feel the story and the characters’ struggles in our veins.
Even though the audience and the critics were very positive about the ballet, it is surprising that the next performances will be only 5 performances in 2018 April – May (tickets are available already!) But during Autumn a CD with its music will be released, I can’t wait!
Advice: Avoid seats on the verge in the first rows