Pollyanna Hollebon, 21, gave a mesmerising performance as Blanche du Bois as the controversial 1940s “domestic violence” play A Streetcar Named Desire provided the perfect platform for her talents.
It is an intimate play in every way, and Pollyanna used the intimacy of the small theatre in Church Walk to bring Blanche’s vanity and delusion brilliantly to the stage in a remarkably mature performance, only her second for Burgess Hill Theatre Club.
Pollyanna, in real life so obviously a beautiful and confident young woman, transformed herself with a faultless portrayal as the faded and mentally fragile Blanche.
With a warm Southern accent and crystal-clear diction, she was also able to deliver with immense confidence Blanche’s barbed shafts of dark and ultimately self-endangering wit, which are so essential to the spirit of the play.
Within a minute or so of the cast receiving a well-deserved resounding round of applause at the curtain Pollyanna was getting hugs from some of her fans, and she deserved every one for a standout performance that was remarkable by any standards.
The marvellous Maxime Dudeney also made it a real ladies night for acting plaudits, encapsulating the pragmatic, if rather pathetic, pregnant sister-in-law Stella.
In these days of heightened awareness of domestic violence it was uncomfortable watching as she endured the physical beatings and verbal violence of her unstable husband, overwhelmingly attracted by his sexuality to the point of forgiveness.
Maxime’s performance was vivid enough to remind me of why this edgy tale caused uproar after it reached Broadway, with Marlon Brando later reprising his role as the volatile and violent Stanley in the hit film.
Back in Burgess Hill, Ben Cassan was handed the role of portraying the magnetic sexuality and brooding presence of Stanley.
Ben’s consistently good acting soon ensured we quickly despised the poker playing, bullying and brutish man who, angry at Blanche’s taunting of his baseness and roused by her flirting, later raped her while she was worse the wear for drink, while his pregnant wife was away giving birth.
John O’Connor’s taut direction gave Pollyanna Hollebon the chance to share Blanche’s terror with us, as she cowered terrified in a corner at the menacing approach of a powerful yet weak man determined to capture her body and soul.
Even then Blanche’s black world turns even darker in the final scene.
In two brief cameo roles, Des Fitzpatrick and Nicki Plank, looking dark and sinister as doctor and nurse rather than re-assuring, take away the broken Blanche.
This was not always an easy play to sit through, but the entire cast from Burgess Hill Theatre Club should be congratulated for portraying its uncomfortable messages so well.
Cast: Eunice, Isobel Holloway; Blanche, Pollyanna Hollebon; Stella, Maxime Dudeney; Steve, Tom Fox; Stanley, Ben Cassan; Mitch, Phil Hawkins; Pablo, Chesney Jones; Young collector, Andy Squires; Doctor, Des Fitzpatrick and nurse Nicki Plank. Director John O’Connor.