The King’s Theatre was packed on Monday evening, 8 August, for this performance of Tennessee Williams’ powerful play, ‘The Glass Menagerie’. Believing in the dictum ‘write about what you know’, this black comedy rings true to me in a manner ofÂ painful stark reality to which every family at some point can relate.
Domineering, ambitious ‘Monster Mother’ as I saw her, brilliantly acted by Cherry Jones was, in many way, a tragic figure, yet one to which the audience readily responded, often with laughter. Michael Esper is the frustrated would-be writer son givesÂ a brilliant performance based on Williams’ own early experience and Kate O’Flynn’s career on stage and screen has the ‘stellar’ quality of enabling her convincing performance as Laura. Her domineering mother, Amanda, bullies her but with, apparently, the highly commendable motive of finding a suitable husband for Laura from one of the many callers, who don’t seem to exist except in Amanda’s imagination. The fact that Laura’s own father had deserted Amanda and his children to travel the world underpins everything which takes place in the play.
Michael Esper’s interpretation of Tom was highly convincing. In The Glass Menagerie he manages to combine a determination to defy his mother’s more extreme demands with apparent compliance to follow his own path. Tom helps audiences to understand Tennessee Williams’ own character and the issues he had to face and overcome.
Mrs Amanda Wingfield, Cheryl Jones’ character, is constantly waiting for the ‘callers’ (who never arrive) whilst playing a leading role in her local church and selling magazine subscriptions to women members. Tom, being forced to work in a warehouse to support the family, when all he wants to do is to write, eventually produces that elusive caller. This part is played by Seth Numrich. As the visit unfolds the inner life of Laura is revealed, depicted by tiny glass miniatures – hence the play’s title. In a brilliant twist, towards the end of the play the caller, who works with Tom at the warehouse comes to dinner. But nothingÂ is straightforward…
TheÂ stage setting, with conventional furnishings overshadowed by towering ladders – representing a reach for the sky to fulfil a dream – is not commented upon by the characters but reveals, to me, the underlying message. This particular concept was invented by Movement Director Steven Hoggett, one of the production team. John Tiffany, the director is ably supported by his whole team of skilled staff including Steven whose concept of the’New Plastic Theatre’ is represented by the ladders.
The production is presented by special arrangement with the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee – who hold Tennessee Williams archive. The Edinburgh production is also supported by The Pirie Rankin Charitable Trust.
A great experience!
Running at the King’s Theatre until 21st August.