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Reflections of a working writer and reader



The Glass Menagerie – a review

menagerieThis production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass menagerie was well worth the four-hour train journey to London and back.

I turn back time. I reverse it to that quaint period, the thirties, when the huge middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind. Their eyes failed them, or they had failed their eyes.

Tom Wingfield’s opening monologue

Rupert Goold’s staging at the Apolo theatre is a faithful adaptation of Williams’ masterpiece, often referred to as a ‘memory’ play. Amanda Hale, Jessica Lange, Ed Stoppard and Mark Umbers come together wonderfully in the series of dream-like scenes which make up the play.

Set in St Louis in the depression years, The Glass Menagerie presents us with Amanda Wingfield (Lange), the mother whose husband fell in love with long-distance and disappeared into it; Laura (Hale), her crippled and psychologically fragile daughter; Tom (Stoppard) the son who spends every evening at the movies and dreams of following his father into long-distance; and Jim(Umbers), the gentleman-caller who offers hope and, in spite of himself, delivers despair.

The Glass Menagerie tackles the problems of flawed memory, of unfulfilled dreams and the way that families conspire to trap each other within the web of the familial, while at the same time insulating themselves against the ultimate disappointment of the others. Rich in symbolism and metaphor, Williams’ script revolves around a series of abandonments, at one and the same time mirroring the experience of his central male character and of the playwright himself.

The writing, the production, and each member of the cast are memorable. Jessica Lange and Amanda Hale stand out, but that is to take nothing away from the others. This is a real treat.

The production continues until the 19th May, but don’t leave it too long, you might want to go again.

This post refers to another version of the same play

9 Responses to “The Glass Menagerie – a review”

  1. kaz says:

    it says alot about “the glass menagerie”, but not much about this particular production.

    jb says: It was dead good, kaz.

  2. […and the way that families conspire to trap each other within the web of the familial, while at the same time insulating themselves against the ultimate disappointment of the others….]

    Great review. The snippet above reminds me of the beginning of Anna Karenina.


  3. jebus says:

    the glass menagerie is a strong plea for understanding. Williams expresses his key ideas in many forms from symbolism to deception. He creates a world for us in which entrapment is the normal way of life and escape is futile because of the love we share for the characters. As tom says at the beginning of the play “I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” This being a memory play the lighting is dim and full of symmetry. this play is nothing like the book well it is but its different an dim not sure i want to ruin what i belive the play to look like with another persons interpretation of it.. sorry if that dissapoints you it is just my point of view.

    jb says: It doesn’t disappoint me in any way at all, jebus. I love to hear different points of view and to see different interpretations of the play. But “this play is nothing like the book” had me stumped.

  4. […] and starred Brenda Blethyn in the central role of Amanda Wingfield. Back in March 2007 I posted a review of the same play with Jessica Lange in the starring role, and it was interesting and instructive to […]

  5. […] Avenue’s tiny gem of a theatre,The Gielgud. The production was a new version directed by Rupert Goold and starring Ian McDiarmid as the Father, Eleanor David as the Mother and Denise Gough (pictured) […]

  6. Carnaby says:

    The glass menagerie is somewhat a complicated for me. If the family are trap I think they should understand each other. They should come to the point of giving each other some wisdom not insult them with disappoinment.

    jb says: Hi Carnaby. Interesting comment, but does wisdom always lead to happiness?

  7. SunAndGlasses says:

    That piece sounds very nice to my ears. Unfortunately I live in Canada, the train takes a bit more time reaching London (UK)…

    With some luck, It will be performed near Montreal not too far in the future.

    Sounds like Kafka but less weird and more realistic.

    Thank you.

    jb says: I don’t know about Kafka, but it is a brilliant piece of theatre.

  8. Tennessee PI Guy says:

    Great review… and it must have been a wonderful production to get props after the long commute!

  9. steve walker says:

    wonderful, fantastic review!