A Streetcar Named Desire, Lyttelton, National Theatre, London

Blanche is too tough and Kowalski too sensitive in this miscast 'Streetcar'

Glenn Close was sensational as Norma Desmond, the superannuated silent screen diva, in Trevor Nunn's Los Angeles production of Sunset Boulevard. Now, in the same director's National Theatre revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, Close makes her British stage debut in the role of Blanche Dubois, another female symbol of a dying culture who fails to adapt and winds up being led off to the nuthouse.

The difference is that Norma's delusions of grandeur are armour-plated, whereas Tennessee Williams's heroine – the faded Southern belle who is on the run from ruin and sexual scandal – has a pitifully shaky grip on her pretensions to genteel respectability. We know that Close is a dab hand at projecting implacable resolve. But is vulnerability within her compass?

On the evidence of her performance here, the answer, I'm afraid, is a pretty emphatic no. With that determined cut of jib, she comes across as a tough cookie who is engaged in an arch impersonation of Blanche. The ladylike airs on her arrival at her sister's New Orleans apartment are too confidently imperious.

True, she extracts some good broad comedy from this "visiting royalty" manner, as when she lets out a hilarious shriek of distress at the idea that she might have to sweep up some broken glass. But she fails to communicate the painful fragility that lies behind Blanche's compulsive flirtatiousness and deluded poetic flights. Instead of the nervously fluttering doomed moth, the actress presents a figure who, at moments, could be rechristened Cruella Dubois. It's characteristic that in the scene where she steals a kiss from the newspaper boy, the focus falls on the youth's comic discomfort rather than on Blanche's sad and embarrassing emotional neediness.

It doesn't help that Close looks more like the well-preserved mother than the haggard sister of Stella, whose plump, down-to-earth sensuality and realism are well portrayed by Essie Davis.

The miscasting extends to Blanche's antagonist. Muscled, lean and exquisitely cheekboned Iain Glen exudes the right kind of sexual vanity as her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski, but the sense of primitive animal magnetism and of intense physical threat is missing from his performance. He's a naturally sensitive actor and so because the characters aren't presented as the kind of graphic opposites who attract and repel each other, there's woefully little sexual tension between them.

Bunny Christie's monumental set revolves to take us right the way through to the bathroom in the Kowalski apartment. This airiness and activity (the show sometimes looks as if it's aspiring to be Streetcar! the musical) militate against an atmosphere of steamy oppressiveness. And with its perverse central casting, this Streetcar offers a less than enthralling three-hour ride.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas