A simple circular podium and a meagre fistful of props stand in for the aromatically squalid quarters of New Orleans.
The inclusion of a drummer to underline dramatic moments is irritating and intrusive. So, too, is the unscripted appearance of Blanche’s dead husband in a contorted dance to emphasise Blanche’s disordered mental state. These and other interventions are over-literal representations of Williams’ words. Yet there is real power in the performances.
Mescal (Normal People/Aftersun) mitigates the Neanderthal Stanley with an instinctive intelligence; sex and violence hang in the air like the sulphurous smoke from an active volcano.
While Ferran is far from the traditional Blanche, her rapid fire delivery and hyperactive agitation suggest a mind unraveling faster than alcohol can impede.
Vasan is utterly convincing as a woman who understands she has sacrificed polite ‘safe’ society for raw unbridled passion, Beneath Blanche’s flirtation with Stanley’s gentle friend Mitch (Dwane Walcott) is a riptide of mutual desperation that provides one of the most moving scenes of the night.
Yet by stripping it down to its underwear and embellishing it with directorial flourishes Frecknall’s production appears – ironically – overdressed.
And God spare us from any more rain on stage. As Blanche says: “I don’t want realism, I want magic.”
Almeida Theatre until February 4 Tickets: 020 7359 4404