'A Streetcar Named Desire': 21st-century adaptations

By Aisling Lally


One of the most critically-acclaimed plays of the twentieth century, Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire engages modern creative teams and audiences alike. 

We’ve put together a list of recent adaptations to help boost your performance history knowledge.


1. 2002: The National Theatre production, directed by Trevor Nunn

Trevor Nunn’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Glenn Close as Blanche DuBois, was met with mixed reviews. Amid the intensity of early twenty-first-century celebrity culture, the critics primarily focussed on Close and her performance. Michael Billington praised “the trajectory of Close’s magnificent performance…show[ing] a woman who finally acknowledges her limitless capacity for self-delusion”. Conversely, Paul Taylor, writing for The Independent, noted that “instead of the nervously fluttering doomed moth, the actress presents a figure who, at moments, could be rechristened, Cruella Dubois.”

An Educational Work Pack on the National Theatre production is available here.


2. 2014: The Young Vic production, directed by Benedict Andrews

A Streetcar Named Desire at The Young Vic (2014) received critical acclaim. Many praised Gillian Anderson’s “utterly compelling” portrayal of Blanche (Susannah Clapp, The Guardian, 2014). At the same time, critics such as Michael Billington noted the use of a revolving set to “keep the acting space in perpetual motion” and “get a shifting perspective on the home in New Orleans”. 

The production is available to stream online now via National Theatre At Home.


3. 2015: The Departure, a short film starring and directed by Gillian Anderson

In 2015, the short film The Departure was released as a prequel to A Streetcar Named Desire. Gillian Anderson described the film as “a curious study of a character in a period of time” and that it was designed to capture the “magic realist” element of Williams’s writing – “moments in time that are suspended...in between reality and non-reality”.

The Departure is available to watch on theguardian.com.


4. 2016: Royal Exchange production, directed by Sarah Frankcom

Sarah Frankcom’s Royal Exchange production in Manchester was generally praised, with Maxine Peak starring as Blanche. Critics highlighted the quality of performances. Susannah Clapp applauded Ben Batt’s “stealthy, watchful” portrayal of Stanley. She also described Sharon Duncan-Brewster as “a beautiful, utterly persuasive Stella: generous, widely smiling and limber, sliced open by the love of her husband.”


5. 2018: English Touring Theatre production, directed by Chelsea Walker

Chelsea Walker’s production explores the play’s themes of outsiders, “toxic masculinity, and the pressures placed on women”. Set in contemporary New Orleans, Walker aimed to “explore just how it speaks to us now” and allow for a rich understanding of Blanche DuBois’s journey. 

Walker discusses directing the play in an interview with Cambridge Arts Theatre, available to read) here.


Have you watched any of these productions? If so, what did you make of them? 

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