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    Review: The Glass Menagerie

    LIVERPOOL PLAYHOUSE THEATRE, THURSDAY 8TH OCTOBER 2015

     

    Welcome to the Glass Menagerie. Director Ellen MacDougall offers the audience a glimpse into a long-forgotten world, and invites us to sit in a dark room and watch dreamers wish they were anywhere else. As everyone piles into the theatre, a curly-haired man is seen sitting in the middle of the stage, peering out and occasionally smiling at the audience. He rises from what is apparently a pool of water, introduces himself as the narrator and explains that what we are about to see is a 'memory play' about his family life.

     

    As the social context of the play is set, we are immediately transported back to St Louis in the 1930s - "In Spain there was revolution. Here there was only shouting and confusion". The simple setting of two lights in a small black room does not matter - all colour is provided by Tennessee Williams' timeless dialogue and the actors' delivery of it.

     

    The first member of Tom's family we meet is his mother (Amanda Wingfield), played with shrill, neurotic brilliance by screen and stage veteran, Greta Schacci. Schacci's Southern accent wavers up and down like a manic symphony throughout, perfectly articulating the nature of her character.

     

    Throughout the play, Mrs Wingfield makes life extraordinarily difficult for both her children as she attempts to relive her own youth through them. Tirelessly seeking a potential suitor for her shy, disabled daughter Laura, she laments that her son may turn out just like his father, take to the drink and leave them all behind.

     


    Erin Doherty brings a sensitivity beyond her years to the character of Laura; we can't help but admire her for putting up with her mother for so long and somehow managing to maintain a sense of childlike awe despite this, particularly when tending to the animals in her beloved glass menagerie.

     

    While Laura finds solace in small glass unicorns, Tom finds it in 'going to the movies' and dreaming of being a poet. Tom Mothersdale brings a real humanity to the character, and also recites his lines rather like a beatnik poet, driving the play along with an infectious humour and rhythm.

    When we are introduced to Jim, played with enthusiasm and flair by Eric Kofi Abrefa, the dense unreality that this family have constructed becomes all too apparent. They live in a world of huge expectations and inevitable letdowns, while Jim gets over failures more readily and acts to change them.

     

    Amanda's babbling in the presence of Jim does nothing but illustrate her own numerous insecurities, and it's only when Jim is alone with Laura that the two are able to speak freely. This scene is one of the most moving moments of the play, full of revelations that concern every character.

    Tennessee Williams seemed to construct plays so authentic that even 70 years later in Liverpool, they can still have resonance and somehow transport an audience back to that bygone era. This authenticity is perhaps retained because of how autobiographical his work was - he wrote with an honesty that simply doesn't age.

     

    Words (C) Sean Kaluarachchi

     

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