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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

A Dodgeball Named Desire (Bloomshed), at fortyfivedownstairs - 75 minutes, without interval

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

A Dodgeball Named Desire is a clever, creative and involving hoot, contrasting the literary with the sporting.

It is a decidedly fresh take on A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.

Photos by Bryce James Haggett

First performed on Broadway in December 1947, that is the story of former Southern belle Blanche DuBois, whose personal circumstances have changed for the worse.

An English teacher in her 30s, she takes a leave of absence from her job and travels from Laurel, Mississippi to the New Orleans French Quarter.

There, she moves in with her younger married sister Stella and Stella’s husband Stanley Kowalski.

The tension between DuBois and the uncouth Kowalski is palpable.

In A Dodgeball Named Desire, Tennessee Williams (Tom Molyneux) makes an unexpected entrance, after which he tells us that he has devised an experiment.

He wants to see if the drama of the written word (A Streetcar Named Desire won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948) can win out against the raw power of sport.

He promises a spectacle and quite the spectacle we get in the form of a game of dodgeball.

Dodgeball is a team sport, in which players on opposing teams throw balls and hit opponents while avoiding being hit themselves.

In this take, it appears we have an uneven contest.

On the one side is a three-member team of historic Blanche DuBois (plural) in period dress (played by Laura Aldous, Elizabeth Brennan and Anna Louey).

On the other are members of a modern, athletic VFL team, led by Stanley Kowalski (Sam Nix), who has a "take no prisoners" attitude.

The umpire is none other than Tennessee Williams himself.

And what would a sporting competition be without a colourful commentator (James Jackson) to call all the action and much more besides.

Let’s just say that, not surprisingly, the VFL team has it all over the historic figures to begin with, while a petulant Kowalski comes to the fore in the second quarter.

The script pays homage to A Streetcar Named Desire, with many overtures to that feted work.

Orange slices, typically served at half time during football matches, are the DuBois’ kryptonite.

Make no mistake, the action is fast and furious, as balls are thrown with venom.

While precision may often be lacking, some direct hits have the audience smarting.

At one point, the DuBois are even solicit help to aid their cause in the form of five audience players.

Just how much fun can one have sitting down?

Heaps, based on what is presented to us in A Dodgeball Named Desire.

I loved it. It is so unusual, different and special.

The juxtaposition of time frames works brilliantly.

It has been superbly written and executed by the Bloomshed collective, with humour and heart.

I appreciated the surprise and indignation at first inherent in the DuBois and the offhanded dismissal of them that Sam Nix as Stanley Kowalski brings to the table.

His throwaway lines are rippers. Mind you, he is not Robinson Crusoe.

The turn of phrase and delivery that James Jackson has as commentator is priceless, with the laughs coming thick and fast.

Jackson is nothing if not versatile in his comic sensibilities, as he distributes flowers and more, and is the subject of one of the DuBois’ affections.

Tom Molyneux makes a most appealing Tennessee Williams, setting the tone for what is about to take place with his strong Southern drawl. Nor does he make a half bad umpire.

The set consists of a large, oblong, barren space, with a bedazzling, golden bathtub at one end.

As the plot develops, spread across the centre of the room are dodgeballs.

There’s a tennis umpire’s highchair on one horizontal and space for two commentators on the other. Anna Louey dons civies as she doubles her role as Blanche DuBois as the second caller, later in the piece.

Dressing the DuBois in ivory gowns, tiaras and sneakers – a sharp contrast to the shorts and singlets of the VFL players – goes down a treat.

I tip my hat to set and costume designer Samantha Hastings, along with the endeavour of the lighting designer John Collopy.

Seventy-five minutes without interval, A Dodgeball Named Desire is an hilarious theatrical triumph playing at fortyfivedownstairs until 29th October, 2023.


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