Michael Cox: What was your first experience with Streetcar?
Gina Isaac: It was watching the Elia Kazan film. I’m a huge Brando fan and absolutely loved the film when I first saw it about 20 years ago. It’s an amazing film, and Brando and Vivien Leigh work so well together – the old style meeting the new. I’ve only ever seen one theatre production of Streetcar, with a wonderful actress, Geraldine Alexander, playing Blanche. Years later I had the pleasure of working with her on the national tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It was a lovely thing to be able to tell her that I’d seen her play Blanche.
MC: Let’s talk a little more about Blanche. When was the first time you thought of her as a viable character for yourself?
GI: I don’t know really. There are always parts that you’d love to play as an actress, and of course Blanche Dubois is definitely ‘up there’ in terms of the biggies, but it wasn’t a part that I felt I had to play. Once I started preparing for the audition though I became totally gripped by her. It’s a great feeling when you read a part and something about them speaks to you. I guess that’s when I realised I would love the chance to try and play her! Funnily enough, I have been watching a lot of southern and classic films as part of my research, and Gone with the Wind (also starring Vivien Leigh) was the film that really ‘clicked’ for the concept of the ‘Southern Belle’. It completely captures the old world of white privilege and vast plantations, the world from which both Blanche and Stella descend.
MC: I find that characters can surprise you in rehearsal. Was there a discovery about Blanche that you’ve made, either in rehearsal or in performance?
GI: Yes, Blanche is full of surprises and I am still in the midst of discovering them. I was struck in rehearsals by just how insightful and wise she is. I hadn’t realised that about her before. Blanche sees everything – too clearly. That is why she indulges herself in fantasy and illusion, in order to cope with the pain of life. Blanche can see the turmoil of her sister’s situation all too clearly. She has a real awareness of other people’s pain.
MC: Has there been a favourite role or production in your career, and has it helped prepare you for taking Streetcar on?
GI: I played Marlene in Top Girls and strangely I do see some similarities between her and Blanche. They are polar opposites in many ways: a hard-headed business woman and a privileged southern belle; one is running from her roots and the other is desperately clinging to them, but both self-medicate through alcohol and both are striving for something more. Perhaps most importantly, they are both the kind of women that I would love to hang out with…slightly irregular is always more fun.
MC: Is there a role in Streetcar that you yourself identify with? It could be male or female–and it doesn’t have to be Blanche.
GI: The characters in Streetcar are all so rich and layered that you could identify with facets of all of them at some point. Tennessee Williams’s plays are so eloquent and exciting to watch, and I think it’s because he manages to capture the light and the dark in all of us. His plays tap into something which helps remind us of how complex we all really are.
MC: Final question: is there a moment within the play that you’re excited to perform before an audience?
GI: Yes. All of it. I’m not joking…it’s a gift of a part.
© Michael Cox