Poker Night Blues

★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 11 Aug 2015

What begins looking like extreme Morris Dancing, with performers prancing, cracking sticks together and arranging them into half-formed sets, turns into a bizarre dance-infused retelling of A Streetcar Named Desire.

English surtitles translate a script written in Mandarin Chinese, which heavily reworks Williams’ original. Each of the characters is given a chance to talk to the audience via their inner monologues, inverting all the repression of Williams’ lines and filling in unnecessary backstory. 

Jazz and blues—as well as audio extracts from the 1951 film—play overhead while the performers turn critical moments into precise and expressive dance. Every movement has a clear purpose, a message, an aspect of the play it’s trying to emphasise. Somersaults and flips are particularly impressive in such a small space.

Theatre Movement Bazaar and Tinhouse Productions have distilled the familiar themes and the plot to their concentrated form. It’s an audacious move. But what becomes clear as the piece goes on is that it does not take itself seriously enough to be a desecration. There’s deadpan humour in the dances and the play acknowledges its own heavy-handedness: after a sub-West Side Story dance by the men, Stanley takes centre stage and asserts, “I’m a man”. Immediately he dresses up as a woman. 

Amid acrobatic skill and precisely choreographed mime, a new Streetcar emerges, almost The Comic Strip Presents...Streetcar. An adaptation that’s been dumbed down, but in an intelligent way.