The Glass Menagerie - Review

The plot of Tennessee Williams' semi-autobiographical play, which reflects his own relationship with his mother & sister, concerns the emotional tensions between a mother & her two children. The mother, Amanda, after years of raising her family on her own, escapes the struggle & drudgery of present day life by dreaming of & trying to relive her younger days as a Southern Belle. Williams describes this work as a "memory play" with the son, Tom, stepping in & out of the play to act also as the narrator. The memory aspect of the play is emphasised by the use of haunting music & sound effects, with lighting that fades in & out or with spotlights that just picks out individuals or certain stage areas. Whilst this worked on most occasions I sometimes felt that it was unnecessary & intruded as though a point was being emphasised by underlining with a heavy black marker pen when all that was needed was a delicate highlighter. Delicacy is in the fact the keyword to the play. All the family are emotionally fragile & are as brittle as the glass animals in the daughter, Laura's, collection.

Amanda is a very difficult part to play for the actress has to find the right balance between the monstrousness of the woman's obsessive behaviour & her fragility. Mary Matson often found that balance particularly the scene on the balcony with Laura wishing on the new moon & also in the last scene following the departure of Laura's gentleman caller. However there were times when the balance slipped to caricature. Often as the pitch of the voice went up it became a screech with words being lost. A similar fault lay with James Haines. As Tom the narrator he was very good with his voice dreamy & poetic as the part called for. His final speech when he speaks of being haunted by images of his sister as he travels the world was moving but as Tom the frustrated son he had problems in conveying anger. This is a problem that have I remarked upon before. His excessively intense body language & facial expressions often drew an inappropriate response from the audience. His diatribe against his mother might have worked better if it had been played in a more mocking tone.

I, along with the rest of the audience, was moved by Lauren Heinrich's portrayal of Laura. It was totally natural with not a hint of acting. The shyness & gaucheness of the character was beautifully drawn. Long will I remember the slow radiant smile emerging from her shy & frightened face after she has been kissed only for it to disintegrate into broken heartedness as her hopes shatter. This was the climax to a particularly fine scene played between her & Dominic Orys, the Gentleman Caller with the pair of them seated on the floor in front of lit candles.

Barrie Jerram