August 8, 2011
IN 2009, Sydney Theatre Company’s audacious bid to woo US theatregoers with an Australian production of one of the great works of modern American theatre – Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire – paid off handsomely.
The often hard-to-please New York critics mostly hailed the STC production that starred the STC’s artistic co-director Cate Blanchett as the fading southern belle Blanche DuBois, as one of the finest interpretations of the play.
Top critic, Ben Brantley of The New York Times, had this to say of Blanchett’s portrayal of Blanche: ”The lady who lives for illusion has never felt more real.”
Two years later, the STC is again in the US, this time with its production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, adapted by the company’s other artistic director, Andrew Upton, and starring Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving. The show opened at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center on Saturday night and early reviews are just as good.
Brantley was effusive, describing the three hours he spent watching a performance he found both ”outrageously funny” and ”heartbreaking” as ”among the happiest of my theatergoing life”.
”Staged by the Hungarian director Tamas Ascher – and featuring a brilliant daredevil performance by Cate Blanchett as a chipped trophy wife – this Uncle Vanya gets under your skin like no other I have seen,” wrote Brantley in Sunday’s edition of the NY Times.
The Washington Post‘s Peter Marks was impressed most with Roxburgh’s performance as the shattered Vanya, who realises the professor he has long revered is an intellectual sham and the woman he adores can’t be won.
”Roxburgh’s desolation is so authentically articulated that you may sense you’re feeling the totality of Vanya’s pain for the first time,” wrote Marks.
”It’s a startling portrayal, emblematic of the seismic emotions of the intoxicating, go-for-broke Uncle Vanya that comes from Down Under courtesy of Cate Blanchett and her Sydney Theatre Company.”