phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
An Interview with Kelly Gough

An Interview with Kelly Gough

10 May 2018 | Sian Brett

Blanche DuBois is one of the most famous female characters in theatre history. A southern belle whose world is changing before her very eyes, Blanche has been played by the greats, from Rachel Weisz to Gillian Anderson, and now Kelly Gough. We chatted to Kelly about the play and how this new production from director Chelsea Walker re-examines the heart of Tennessee Williams.

Culture Calling: Blanche is a seminal theatre role for actors – is that something that you’re aware of when going into a process?
Kelly Gough: If I’m honest not massively. Simply because before I did the show I hadn’t seen the film, I hadn’t read the play, I’d never seen any version of it - which I recognise is quite unusual. With parts like this I try not to look at them too much, in case I wind up playing them, which has actually worked in our favour in this particular production because Chelsea wanted to do something quite different. I’m glad that I didn’t look at it too closely because I’m 31 and Blanche is typically played a lot older and there are a whole host of traps I could have fallen into had I been obsessively watching it or connected to it beforehand. This cold reading of the text was really helpful; my Blanche is a 31-year-old Blanche who was born in 1987. It’s funny, I’ve been acting for ten years and every job, regardless of the size of it, you show up, you do the work - and that’s my job.

Image Credit: The Other Richard
 
CC: You mentioned that director Chelsea Walker is doing something a little bit different with this production?
The best way of describing it is that Chelsea has very much done away with the idea of Blanche as a ‘mad woman’ and what we’ve really looked at is the truth within the text. Stella is written as 23 and Blanche is written as at least five years older than her, so she’s played a lot closer to what Williams originally imagined Blanche being. She was a young woman of 17 and her young husband killed himself and she blames herself and has this thing that she’s never dealt with or discussed. Then life gets in the way and she’s trying to keep a house running and people please and do all of the ‘right’ things. In many ways Blanche does what society expects of her and I think her coming unglued is actually having to deal with this thing that has happened that’s never been dealt with. It’s a much more grounded approach to the play than anything I’ve seen before. It speaks a lot more about grief and mental health and not speaking up. We’re also very clear in what happens at the end, we’ve made a very clear choice with it. I know when I read the play I thought ‘oh god’ whereas for a lot of people there’s an ambiguity with what happens with Stanley at the end. For me reading it there was no ambiguity, or for Chelsea, a woman of 29, reading it there was no ambiguity. So it’s a very grounded production.

CC: There’s a heat under the play that is very omnipresent throughout; how do you go about creating that?
KG: Once Blanche is inside she rarely ventures outside. Past the second scene you don’t see her outside, and there’s a fan going constantly throughout. You could argue that with a production in a more modern setting, heat is one of those things we’re much better able to manage now than in the 1940s. We’re not ‘playing heat’, you know fans or fake sweat, a lot of it builds quite organically and naturally. We’re under hot lights and it’s a very physical production so Chelsea has it that we build the heat. It builds in the text but also in the way we move, the way we take space, it builds quite organically. By the end of the play I’m soaked in sweat but it’s not something that’s consciously played in, it’s just there, it’s omnipresent, it’s within the writing. There are times when you slow things down, the movement is heavier, but it does it itself.

Image Credit: The Other Richard
 
CC: Conversations around women in the media are slowly beginning to change, and with that in mind how relevant do you think the play is today?
KG: There’s a Leonard Cohen quote that says with good writing you don’t wind up writing about one thing, you actually find you’re writing about everything. Tennessee Williams has so much to say about mental health and how we treat one another, particularly with Streetcar because he wrote it about himself as a young gay man. I’m pretty sure there’s a version of this play that will happen at some stage where Blanche will be played by a man and it finally gets to be what it really is. Whereas at the minute with the conversations we’re having around women, and the portrayal of women, it’s a really useful thing to have Blanche played as a woman right now in this particular version of it. I don’t think it will always have to be this way. In many ways it’s a real shame that it does still have something to say. It comes down to her final line of the play; ‘I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers’. You never know what someone else’s experience is. Unless you’re a young black woman you don’t know what it is to be a young black woman, unless you’re a young gay man you don’t know what it is to be a young gay man. It’s the same as the way that women are spoken about or treated; it’s so rarely kind. It’s always through a different kind of lens. You’re an object, you’re attractive or you’re not attractive - you’re reduced to these things. And actually what Streetcar Named Desire does is it cries out for us to stop putting people in boxes and stop trying to label them. ‘Just be kind’ is what lies at the heart of Streetcar. And that will always have a place and that will always need saying and we will always need reminding. I think part of the beauty of Tennessee Williams writing is that that’s what lies at the heart of it.
 
A Streetcar Named Desire is on tour now until 16 June. You can find all the dates and ticket information on the English Touring Theatre website

Tell us what you think

You may also like

A Guide to the UK’s Best Open-Air Theatres

A Guide to the UK’s Best Open-Air Theatres

As Shakespeare famously once wrote “the world’s a stage”, and what with the UK’s wide range of open-air theatre experiences, it’s hard to argue. So grab your…

An interview with the Thinking Drinkers

An interview with the Thinking Drinkers

Comedy duo and award-winning drinks writers the Thinking Drinkers, Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, have had a busy 2017, what with all the booze they’ve been…

An Interview with Tez Ilyas

An Interview with Tez Ilyas

Tez Ilyas’s sharp wit and observations about the state of the UK today are hard to separate from his identity as a young, northern, working class…

Will Eno’s The Open House

Will Eno’s The Open House

In collaboration with Bath’s Ustinov Studio, Print Room at the Coronet have staged their third production by Will Eno, The Open House. The inventive family drama,…

‘Above the Mealy-mouthed Sea’

‘Above the Mealy-mouthed Sea’

Don’t miss acclaimed performance poet and theatre maker Jemima Foxtrot’s one-woman show!

Theatre to look out for in Spring 2018

Theatre to look out for in Spring 2018

There’s a whole wealth of wonderful theatre going on tour this Spring, with productions making their way across the country to make sure that everyone possible…

A Theatre-lover’s Guide to Brighton

A Theatre-lover’s Guide to Brighton

There’s many a hidden gem to be found in the narrow, winding streets of Brighton’s North and South Lanes, and the wider boulevards that run throughout…

An Interview with Hilton McRae

An Interview with Hilton McRae

The world premiere production of Howard Brenton’s The Shadow Factory will be hitting the stage of Nuffield Southampton Theatre (City) 7 February – 3 March. Set in…

24 Hours in Cambridge

24 Hours in Cambridge

It’s a city known worldwide for its historic and prestigious university, but what else does Cambridge has to offer? Besides the beautiful college buildings there’s a…

Much Ado About Nothing at the Rondo

Much Ado About Nothing at the Rondo

Shakespeare’s classic comedy comes to the Rondo this November.

Most popular

Spotlight On: The Hepworth Wakefield

Spotlight On: The Hepworth Wakefield

Explore the North’s foremost museum of contemporary British art and sculpture!
French Independence Day: Top 5 French Films

French Independence Day: Top 5 French Films

For French Independence Day we've compiled a list of the Top 5 most innovative, influential, powerful and simply beautiful French films, spanning through the entire history of cinema!
The Great Yorkshire Fringe: An Interview with Jane Veysey

The Great Yorkshire Fringe: An Interview with Jane Veysey

We chat to Producer Jane Veysey about the upcoming Yorkshire Fringe Festival from 19-29 July!
A Literature Lover’s Guide to Wales

A Literature Lover’s Guide to Wales

Explore Wales’ literary landmarks with our handy guide.
Sharing Shakespeare: An Interview with Karen Fishwick

Sharing Shakespeare: An Interview with Karen Fishwick

We chatted to Karen Fishwick, who’s currently playing theatre’s most renowned romantic female figure in the RSC’s production of Romeo and Juliet!
The Marvellous Mechanical Museum at Compton Verney

The Marvellous Mechanical Museum at Compton Verney

Compton Verney’s Marvellous Mechanical Museum looks back to the spectacular automata exhibitions of the 18th Century, and charts artists’ experiments with clockwork and robotics through the ages.
The UK’s Top Summer Firework Displays

The UK’s Top Summer Firework Displays

Want to set your summer off with a bang? Check out our sparkling round up of the UK’s top summer firework displays!
A Slice Through the World: Contemporary Artists’ Drawings at Modern Art Oxford

A Slice Through the World: Contemporary Artists’ Drawings at Modern Art Oxford

Modern Art Oxford’s latest exhibition demonstrates how the art of drawing is still prevalent in the digital age, and how it responds to contemporary issues.
BOOK CLUB: The Top Literary Releases of June

BOOK CLUB: The Top Literary Releases of June

Get stuck into one of our top June releases - tried and tested by us so you know that they're good.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!