Crystallising characteristic themes of fragility, repression and memories, The Glass Menagerie was Tennessee Williams' breakthrough play. Premiering back in 1944 it declared the arrival of a major talent whose work still looms large over contemporary theatre.
The play hones in on the Wingfield family: ageing Southern belle Amanda, her agonisingly shy unmarried daughter Laura, her aspiring-poet son Tom and, in the second half, a long-awaited 'Gentleman Caller'.
The story, introduced by Tom and framed as his memories, has autobiographical echoes of the playwright's own upbringing. This production tenderly captures the dreaminess of recalled events while also cutting through the distance of time. Musical interludes feel mesmerising and the familiar domestic scenery is contained in two hexagonal blocks, surrounded by inky blackness.
While American actor Michael Esper makes for an emotional Tom, his Southern drawl is patchy. Broadway regular Cherry Jones is irresistible and all too recognisable as pushy mother Amanda: oozing charm, dominating conversation, and delighting in nostalgia for her own days of gentleman callers in the deep south. She flits around the stage in an outdated girlish gown and everyone laughs; but this is no figure of ridicule. There's a steeliness to the performance and Jones makes the maternal ambition feel particularly moving.
British actor Kate O'Flynn is just as impressive as Laura. You can hear the cloying force of insecurity in every syllable she speaks and her 'inferiority complex' can be read in every movement. O'Flynn brings both the comedy and pathos of such intense awkwardness into sharp relief.
As Laura blooms under the warm attention of the long-awaited Gentleman Caller (Brian J. Smith), all the tenderness and tension of Tennessee Williams' script shines with life.
|What||The Glass Menagerie, Duke of York's Theatre review|
|Where||Duke of York's Theatre, St Martin's Lane, London, WC2N 4BG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
26 Jan 17 – 28 Apr 17, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£20 - £102|
|Website||Click here to book via Culture Whisper and See Tickets|