‘You feel Amy Adams’ absence when she is not on stage’: THE GLASS MENAGERIE – Duke of York’s Theatre ★★★

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Duke of York’s Theatre, London – Booking until 27 August 2022

Director Jeremy Herrin has chosen to have two actors playing Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie so that when he is acting as narrator, it is an older, maturer Tom.

This older Tom, played by Paul Hilton, sets a reflective, melancholy, almost listless tone to the play, but while he hovers around the edges of the stage during certain scenes, where he is absent, it serves to emphasise that this story is his interpretation of events and sometimes conjecture. Tom Glynn-Carney plays the younger Tom.

Amy Adams’ Amanda is the antithesis, a matriarch full of bustle and bristle and constantly needling her children. She is an irritating spark to her despondent and bored son and pushes her shy, nervous daughter Laura (Lizzie Annis) further into her own world. And, she is such a spark that you feel Amanda’s absence when she is not on stage.

As the play progresses and the prospect of a ‘gentleman caller’ gets closer, a youthful coquettishness comes out. Adams’ Amanda is less a mother concerned about her daughter’s future and more someone living out a fantasy rooted in much happier times.

For me, the problem scene is when Laura is alone with her gentlemen caller Jim (Victor Alli). It feels, tonally, as if it’s from a different play. Is that the intention? Not having been there, this scene is very much from the imagination of Tom or what the quiet and mentally fragile Laura chooses to relay.

Is what Jim says to Laura what he wishes he said to her, in hindsight? Regardless it feels more assured and relaxed than the scenario would suggest.

The staging is also perplexing. Part abstract – a raised black block with a black, blocky table and no chairs – and part realism. A huge glass display case containing Laura’s glass menagerie dominates the centre of the space. To the right of the raised stage, it looks a bit like a 1940s production studio/work area.

Is it supposed to reflect how Tom uses trips to the movies to escape his mundane life? Is it purely a visual cue, as that space is rarely used? If so, it feels wasted.

Scenes and images are projected onto a screen behind the performance space. It is where the photo of the absent father appears. Perhaps another device to emphasise Tom’s love of the movies?

I couldn’t see what the left side of the stage looked like from where I was sitting, as it was the end of the row.

Without any chairs, the actors are left perching on edges, only sitting and seemingly relaxed when not in Amanda’s presence. Is that the point?

Having so many questions meant the emotional depth of the play didn’t properly land. There were some satisfying and interesting individual elements, but I’m not sure this production of The Glass Menagerie is the sum of its parts.

I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️.

The Glass Menagerie, Duke of York’s Theatre

Written by Tennessee Williams

Directed by Jeremy Herrin

Running time: 2 hours and 25 minutes, including an interval

Booking until 27 August; for more information and tickets head to the website.

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Revstan really is a reverend (it's amazing what you can buy on the internet) but not a man (the Stan bit is a long story). By day, she is a freelance editor and copywriter; at night, she escapes into the world of theatre and has been blogging about it at theatre.revstan.com since 2007. She says: “I'll watch pretty much anything, from something performed on a stage the size of a tea tray to the West End and beyond. The only exception is musicals. Tried 'em and they just don't do anything positive for me.”
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Rev Stan
Revstan really is a reverend (it's amazing what you can buy on the internet) but not a man (the Stan bit is a long story). By day, she is a freelance editor and copywriter; at night, she escapes into the world of theatre and has been blogging about it at theatre.revstan.com since 2007. She says: “I'll watch pretty much anything, from something performed on a stage the size of a tea tray to the West End and beyond. The only exception is musicals. Tried 'em and they just don't do anything positive for me.”

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