THE GLASS MENAGERIE: Tennessee Williams.
Runs: 2h 20m: one interval: till 26th March.
Performance times: 7.45pm)
Review: Alan Geary: 15th March 2016.
An American masterpiece well served by a fine production.
In The Glass Menagerie, the most autobiographical of all Tennessee Williams’s plays, Tom Wingfield is looking back a decade to his family-life with and a well-meaning but domineering mother and a disabled sister. The father has gone who knows where. It’s a simple plot, but there’s exploration of character of astonishing depth, complexity and tenderness.
The setting is St Louis, Missouri, but there’s a lot of the Deep South in the air; and it’s not just the torrential rain (surely a Williams motif) that falls one evening.
Tom’s mother, Amanda, done in a terrific performance by Susannah Harker with a rich Southern accent, never tires of reminding everyone about her girlhood in Blue Mountain; the servants and the streams of “gentlemen callers”. When a real man, Tom’s workmate, comes to dinner she wafts about in an outrageous Baby Jane frock. It’s comical but pathetic; and entirely out of keeping in St Louis. It’s all half invented stuff culled from Gone with the Wind. Amanda makes a pittance over the phone trying, and usually failing, to get subscription renewals for a trashy romance magazine.
Copied from the real fire escape still standing outside Williams’s childhood home, the on-stage one is the heaviest prop ever seen at Nottingham Playhouse. As proceedings start the top is a vantage point for Tom, now the outsider looking in, to begin his narration.
Chris New is entirely convincing as Tom, the scruffy, gesticulating, 65$ a week warehouseman aiming to make it as a great writer – that playwright and protagonist share the same TW initials is not coincidental. Talking about the play we are about to see, Tom’s play, New’s delivery of the richness of Tom’s language, its vivid, concrete imagery, and arresting turns of phrase is brilliant.
Visitor Jim O’Connor’s (a super Daniel Donskoy) height, ease and studied confidence are a direct contrast with Tom; he’s trying to be the optimistic all-American booster. His scene, sitting on the floor with Laura (Amy Trigg), crippled through illness, and an utter failure in life, is almost unbearably poignant.
This is an American masterpiece served by a fine Nottingham Playhouse production. Excellent work from Director Giles Croft.
Jim O’Connor: Daniel Donskoy.
Amanda Wingfield: Susannah Harker.
Tom Wingfield: Chris New.
Laura Wingfield: Amy Trigg.
Director: Giles Croft.
Designer: Tim Meacock.
Lighting Designer: Mark Howland.
Sound Designer: Adam P McCready.
Choreographer: Adele Parry.