Review: The Glass Menagerie, at the Duke of York’s Theatre

Thursday, 9th June — By Lucy Popescu

Amy Adams new

Amy Adams in The Glass Menagerie. Photo: Johan Persson

TENNESSEE Williams’ memory play, first staged in 1944, focuses on a dysfunctional family who dream of a better life. The Wingfields live in a drab St Louis tenement and barely make ends meet.

Amanda (Amy Adams), a faded Southern belle abandoned by her husband, is desperate to secure a suitor for her mentally fragile daughter. Laura (a brilliant debut from Lizzie Annis, who has cerebral palsy) finds refuge tending her beloved collection of glass animals. A large cabinet displaying her menagerie dominates the stage

Brother Tom (Tom Glynn-Carney) begrudgingly works in a shoe warehouse. He yearns to write and finds release at the movies.

Amanda’s “escape” is the past. She recalls the numerous “gentleman callers” she enjoyed as a young woman and urges Tom to bring a friend home to meet his sister. Eventually he invites co-worker Jim (Victor Alli) to dinner.

Amanda is delighted while Laura is aghast when she learns it is the same Jim she had a crush on at high school.

After a power cut, they are left alone together in the living room. They talk by candlelight and Jim encourages Laura to be more positive. He proudly boasts of his own attempts at self-betterment, including evening classes in public speaking. Jim kisses Laura and they dance, but when he accidentally breaks her favourite unicorn the spell is broken.

The Glass Menagerie was inspired by Williams’ own family. Director Jeremy Herrin underlines this by splitting the role of Tom (based on Williams). Glynn-Carney plays his younger self while Paul Hilton serves as his older incarnation and narrator, observing and commenting on the action.

The intricate staging doesn’t always work – a video screen displaying images of the absent father and Laura’s glass animals is only partially visible to those further back in the stalls.

The play relies on the domineering force of Amanda, her vanity and stubborn determination. However, Herrin mutes the melodrama, Adams’s matriarch feels oddly restrained, and any sense of cloying claustrophobia is lost.

Until August 27

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