Elizabeth Peasley

Street Scene at the Young Vic

New York, Summer 1947, an intense heat wave sets the scene for a revealing slice of street life from the multi-occupied brownstone tenement block.

Street Scene Young Vic 2008
Ruby Hughes as Rose Maurrant, Adrian Dwyer as Sam Kaplan (Photo: Alastair Muir)

A melting pot of families, with their conflicting outlooks and emotions pulls a punch which, by the end of the show, eventually hits home with the audience.

Birth, death, love, envy, spite, vengeance, kindness, hope, frustration, loss, eviction and more are all here in an overwhelming dose of life; an operatic heart in a musical theatre frame.

The staging was simple and effective with children chalking on the pavement. A dull and grey life hung out in the drying sheets and underwear as the words in one of the opening numbers seep through…..'greasy soapsuds drown our wishes'....

Kate Nelson as Mae Jones ignited the first half with an exemplary song and dance routine and stood out in her portrayal of another two sympathetic characters on the block, Shirley Kaplan and Jennie Hildebrand.

The balance of sound and voice was a disappointment throughout the evening. One struggled at times to hear any words. The full orchestral music often seemed sufficient on its own to tell the interweaving stories of these struggling people. An exception was in the second half when Elena Ferrari playing Anna Murrant sang a moving, heartfelt song of loss.

Moments of the surreal appear with matching prams and nannies ogling the 'scene of the crime' and a group of identically clad and beribboned college girls giggle on their graduation day.

It is the black dress worn by pretty daughter Rose Murrant (played by Ruby Hughes) that signals the impending conclusion. The end of the evening spells out the despair of fear but points to possible hope. Rose leaves with the words that to survive …..

"We can't belong to one another…. we must belong to oneself..."

The audience is left with this powerful message and the chalk drawings still on the flagstones.

The Young Vic is renowned for innovative theatre programmes and the Street Scene tabloid is another example, do take home and read.

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