The Glass Menagerie
Paul Johnson | 27 Jan 2012 20:14pm
The Glass Menagerie is one of Tennessee Williams’ more well-known and, many will say, strongest plays. Its semi-autobiographical revelations of hopes, dreams and often painful memories are a deeply personal and emotional experience to witness. Closely based on the playwright’s own life and family in St Louis in the 1930s, it is narrated by one of the characters – Tom Wingfield – who lives with his mother Amanda and his sister Laura in a cramped apartment and suffers the burden of being the man of the house due to an absent father. The play shifts between narration and dream-like memories as Tom recollects his obsessive, insensitive mother, his crippled, painfully shy sister, his own desire to become a writer and yearning for a life of adventure by joining the merchant navy and ultimately his guilt at abandoning his sister. Following one altercation with his mother, by way of an apology Tom agrees to invite a work colleague – Jim O’Connor, home for dinner so that his sister may finally meet a decent man. Unknown to Tom at the time, Laura secretly loved this man when they were in high school together and upon realising he will be a guest at dinner is too shy to meet him and when her mother insists she joins them for dinner she takes a turn for the worst and has to lie down. As Tom and his mother clear away the dishes, Jim spends some time talking with Laura and over time a tentative courtship blossoms; they share memories of their time at school together and Laura delights at showing Jim her collection of glass animals. As Laura opens up to Jim they briefly dance together before Jim accidentally breaks Laura’s glass unicorn. Despite what may be seen as a setback, in a particularly poignant scene Jim and Laura grow closer and they kiss, but the moment is shattered as Jim reveals that he is engaged to another woman and leaves in a hurry. Upon this revelation and despite Tom protesting his innocence, in the ensuing argument Amanda calls Tom a bad son and a cruel brother and Tom storms out, leaving his mother to comfort Laura as she breaks down in tears. Shortly after this incident Tom leaves his family for good and joins the merchant navy. In his closing monologue Tom reveals the full extent of his regret and guilt over leaving his sister behind and given the biographical connections it feels like a heartfelt confession from Williams himself. The Green Theatre company, despite a limited budget, impress with their production of this powerful, intensely personal play. Dan Clinton played Tom with assuredness; balancing intense moments of anger against his mother with compassion for his sister both intertwined with his underlying desire to escape his situation. In particular, Mr Clinton’s delivery of Tom’s closing monologue and outpouring of guilt was especially moving and delivered superbly. Madeline Mason as Amanda conveyed the mannerisms and obsessive nature of the mother expertly and with a touch of subtlety, which toned down the slightly humourous moments but added believability to the paradox of tenderness and cruelty that her character displayed. Kat Field’s portrayal of Laura was delicate and beautifully crafted, capturing her character’s physical and emotional fragility in contrast to the more extrovert nature of her gentleman caller. Jason Brasier showed maturity beyond his years in his delightfully charming and confident performance as Jim O’Connor, achieving fine chemistry with Miss Field during their extended scene in the second half of the play as his character displays great kindness but ultimately unintended cruelty. Brittany Rex’s direction of the play was measured perfectly and it’s clear that a great deal of time went into the characterisation and work on the characters’ accents, which were all delivered incredibly well. The contrasting moments of anger and frustration, particularly between Tom and Amanda in the first half, alongside more tender and poignant scenes between Laura and Jim in the second half were well thought out and delivered with feeling and emotion. The set was well designed, with the apartment split between the stage and the floor with a space to one side doubling as a street for Tom’s narration and the fire escape for the apartment. The black flats worked well to add to the feeling that this was a memory of another time and place, while the cabinet as the home for the glass menagerie was suitably prominent and well lit. The lighting was well managed and the music to accompany scene changes was perfectly chosen, both haunting and conveying a real sense of emotion, which added to the performances on stage.
All round this was a superb production of a masterpiece and the cast and crew of The Glass Menagerie can take great pride in what they have achieved.
- : user
- : 12/01/2012