THE GLASS MENAGERIE
by Tennessee Williams.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To 20 April 2013.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 April.
Resplendently shining Glass Menagerie.
Along with Martha, in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Amanda Wingfield is the most famous termagant of 20th-century American drama. But David Thacker’s distinct, distinguished Octagon revival suggests that, beside his sister Rose, upon whom young Laura Wingfield is based, Williams, and audiences of his first success from its 1945 premiere on, owe Amanda an apology.
Just as Uta Hagen created a monstrous Martha, while subsequent productions of Albee’s play have revealed her husband George to be aggressor more than victim, so Laurette Taylor’s creation of Amanda coloured perceptions of the character.
Amanda may fantasise about her Southern Belle past. But, when her husband deserts the family, leaving them impoverished, she keeps her son and daughter, while Tom (based on young Tennessee) drifts in a routine job where he faces dismissal while Laura’s so shy she doesn’t even turn-up for the secretarial course her mother’s paid for.
Seeing Margot Leicester’s Amanda effortfully descend the stairs to their home, filled with the disappointment of her daughter’s deception, is to realise the strength that’s maintained this woman through years of disappointment.
There’s plenty that might be mocked in the unstylish, earnest Amanda, but Leicester’s performance contains hope for her daughter’s marriage, while her denial of Laura’s limp arises from fear for the girl’s future, and there’s more sorrow, or even despair, than anger in her attacks.
To the end, where the ruin of her hopes around the Gentleman Caller dashes the new fantasies she’s been building, Leicester suggests withheld regret, in a deep and moving performance.
Fiona Hampton’s Laura is also freshly-thought, the shyness never underplayed, showing itself surprisingly through moments of defensive vocal assertion, matched by a definite clomp of her damaged leg.
Brother Tom and visitor Jim are decently played by Nathan Wiley and Kieran Hill. But if it’s the women who leave the strongest impression, that’s seems apt – Tom’s going to drift off to fame and fortune as a writer, but bearing only guilt over his sister, while High School golden boy Jim is already fading into insignificance a few gum-chewing years after his moments of glory.
Laura Wingfield: Fiona Hampton.
The Gentleman Caller: Kieran Hill.
Amanda Wingfield: Margot Leicester.
Tom Wingfield: Nathan Wiley.
Director: David Thacker.
Designer/Lighting: Ciaran Bagnall.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Movement: Lesley Hutchison.
Costume: Mary Horan.
Assistant director: Marney Guy.