THE GLASS MENAGERIE
by Tennessee Williams.
Richmond Theatre 3-7 November.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7651.
Warwick Arts Centre 10-14 November 2015.
TICKETS: 024 7652 4524
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 November.
A view from the audience: young audience members near me began by taking notes. Before the interval they were looking at the time on their ‘phones. By the end they were asleep.
Is it the influence of the recent Young Vic revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, flooded on an unaccountable tide of praise into the West End? Now, from Headlong, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Liverpool’s Everyman/Playhouse duo, another well-known drama, by mid-century America’s other leading playwright, is also denuded of anything like a good home background.
Director Ellen McDougall has, at least, the argument this is presented as a memory play by Tennessee Williams’ stand-in Tom Wingfield. His memory of a poor White southern US home recalls people but blanks-out place. Designer Fly Davis presents, behind the huge tattered wall which rises on each act, a bare, neutral-coloured box offering no escape. Though Tom says there’s a large photo of the absent father, referred to several times, there’s none here, cast-members having to treat it as being on the set’s fourth wall.
Does Tom really remember mealtimes, one without, one with a guest, as people standing round a non-existent table? Author and narrator shared deep concern about their sister, Williams’ Rose with her neural complexities, the play’s physically impaired Laura; so why does Tom’s memory ignore Laura as she spends time asleep on the floor in the unfurnished room until mother Amanda reveals she’s supposedly been washing dishes?
And why, in a production making the past unreal, isn’t Tom played at the age from which he looks back (Eddie Dowling created the role in his mid-fifties)?
In a less perverse environment the moment of unreality when Laura escapes her clomping footwear to dance freely with Jim, who brings her momentary happiness, might movingly mix hopeful imagination with Tom’s memories.
But the overall impact here is reductive. Suffering worst is Greta Scacchi, working hard in a hostile environment, spending Amanda’s down-time under a staircase, having to screech a lot, plus use a telephone that strangely appears solid in Tom’s memory. In act two her indoor hat makes it appear she has half a giant butterfly perched on her head. Amanda is absurd, but she cares about her family and isn’t the gibbering numbskull to which this production reduces her.
Jim: Eric Kofi Abrefa.
Laura: Erin Doherty.
Tom: Tom Mothersdale.
Amanda: Greta Scacchi.
Director: Ellen McDougall.
Designer: Fly Davis.
Lighting: Richard Howell.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Movement: tom Jackson Greaves.
Assistant director: Dan Hutton.
Associate lighting: Nic Farman.