There is nothing different about this new performance of the Tennessee Williams classic, The Glass Menagerie, set in 1930s America. Four actors act out the four characters, there is an attempt to employ American accents; the characters are played as you would expect. Yet, I didn’t find this boring. It wasn’t a tiresome performance – it didn’t feel overdone or generic. Looked at from an objective standpoint, there is nothing particularly special about this performance. And yet it all worked.
Andy Laithwaite introduces the play as Tom, the narrator, and, after getting off to a shaky start, he smoked his fake cigarette with confidence and style and introduced the audience to a seemingly normal American family. After a few lines, once the actors had warmed up and, in Miles Lawrence’s case, actually used their American accents, all four of them were exciting to watch and easy to engage with.
Katie McGunagle was particularly thrilling, with her monologues oozing passion and despair as she realised that her daughter had secretly left business school, and Miles Lawrence’s depiction of Jim was patronising and condescending, just how Williams would have imagined him.
What works really well in The Glass Menagerie is the relationships between the actors. They are playing a family who love and care about each other but also dislike and fight with one another and this idea was thoroughly explored and understood is the raw portrayal of emotion shared between McGunagie and Claire Bowman. The relationship too, between Lawrence and Bowman was awkward, with the audience instantly sympathising with the character of Laura. The audience can immediately sense the chemistry between them – a friendly atmosphere reigns and one suspects that they are all the closest of chums (at least off stage). I can only imagine that this will become even more apparent by 3rd week when they have practised and perfected the scenes to a higher degree.
Of course, there were some elements of the play that, this being a preview, I did not get to enjoy. The director informed me of the “deliciously large stage” at Corpus Christi where the play is to be staged, but the the little room we were in did not compare to that. With all the set and costumes in place, I can imagine this play being both intense and exciting.
The relationships between both the characters and actors are intriguing and I highly recommend this show. Whilst there’s nothing obviously new about it, it’s a faithful and raw production of a classic, and this reviewer can recommend it without hesitation.