THE GLASS MENAGERIE
by Tennessee Williams.
Young Vic 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 1 January 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm (except 1 Jan 7.30pm only)
no performance 24-28 Dec.
Audio-described 22 Dec 7.30pm.
Captioned 17 Dec 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 November.
A Glass Menagerie largely lacking the necessary fragility.
It had been almost a decade since Tennessee Williams failed to prevent his sister Rose being subjected to the lobotomy that scarred both their lives. The sense of failure and regret haunting narrator Tom’s memory here parallels that of Tennessee (Tom by baptism) himself.
His 1945 play is distinctly one of two halves, the first a patchwork of recall, into which Tom the character descends from a balcony via a fire-escape to his teenage home. His own discontent with mother Amanda runs alongside his sister Laura’s desperate shyness over her limp, and embarrassment at her mother’s forceful attempts at match-making.
The second act’s mainly a sustained scene between Laura and Jim, her one-time high-school idol, who brings an awkward confidence when he visits. It’s a tough act for a memory play, seeing that Tom could hardly have known, let alone remembered, what happened.
Joe Hill-Gibbins had just about everything right in this summer’s Young Vic production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane. But his Menagerie goes awry. Jeremy Herbert’s set may intend to present fragmentary memory, but turns out the most diffuse, unhelpful design here since the ill-fated Soldier’s Fortune. Father’s photograph becomes a wall-poster, the fire-escape’s assertively wide and an equally assertive ‘No Smoking’ sign at the top is far more noticeable than significant.
The audience is set-out L-shape round a stage` that demands a two-sided curtain to conceal and reveal. As act two starts it reveals Tom stretched across a sofa, pleased with himself as he is nowhere else in the action. Though Kyle Soller catches the limited mind that brings Jim down-to-earth from Laura’s flights of fancying him, it’s mainly the women who provide interest.
Deborah Findlay gives a sense of Amanda’s fears even as she manipulates, while Sinéad Matthews, moving from playing theatre’s sexiest woman in Frank Wedekind’s Lulu to its least sexy, has a dry voice and awkward shifting movement that warm into adoring hope until her Gentleman Caller’s final revelation.
News of this drops the temperature to icy sarcasm when Amanda hears it. These performances, not the awkward, self-advertising staging, are this production’s strengths.
Tom: Lee Bill.
Amanda: Deborah Findlay.
Laura: Sinéad Matthews.
Jim: Kyle Soller.
Musicians: Simon Allen, Eliza McCarthy.
Director: Joe Hill-Gibbins.
Designer: Jeremy Herbert.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Sound: Mike Walker.
Music: Dario Marianelli.
Video: Steve Williams.
Choreographer: Arthur Pita.
Costume: Laura Hopkins.
Dialect: Michaela Kennen.
Assistant director: Abigail Graham.