Last Updated on 6th June 2022
Paul T Davies reviews Tennessee Williams’s memory play The Glass Menagerie starring Amy Adams at the Duke Of York’s Theatre London.
The Glass Menagerie
Duke Of York’s Theatre
31 May 2022
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Tennessee Williams’s first hit is given an inventive new production directed by Jeremy Herrin that gently finds new layers due to some inventive casting. Whilst the tale of faded Southern Belle Amanda, trying desperately to fix her daughter, Laura, up with a gentleman caller lacks the melodrama and histrionics of later plays, there is power in its gentleness. It’s a beautifully created production, and there is no need for meta theatre to be enforced on the play, Williams gives us that in his superb opening monologue, embracing the fact that this is a memory play, the actors greeting each other on stage before the show begins. The Glass Menagerie is Laura’s collection of glass animals she has collected while secluded from the outside world, they represent her family, hopes and dreams and have pride of place, possibly a little too much attention-stealing in its vast glass cabinet.
The main draw for many people is the casting of Amy Adams in her West End debut as Amanda, and, on press night, I found her performance a little one-dimensional, especially in the first half. She seemed wary of giving in fully to the more melodramatic aspects of Amanda’s character, playing it a little safe, with some rushing of lines. What she does well is comedy, and there are some wonderful lines in this play, “I will rise but I won’t shine”, and “he is as eloquent as an oyster.” However, the evening belongs to Lizzie Annis as Laura, making her professional stage debut. In the play, Laura is “lame”, hence her deep shyness and insecurity. Annis is an actor with cerebral palsy, and every line of Laura’s experience is given deep understanding, her face registering every change of emotion. Paul Hilton as the Narrator and older Tom, and Tom Glynn-Carney work seamlessly as older and younger Tom, past and present, hope and disappointment. As the “gentleman caller” Jim O’Connor, is excellent and gentlemanly until he begins to brag and then accidentally breaks Laura’s prize glass unicorn. That he hasn’t achieved the success he thought he would since leaving High School is gently underlined by the fact he is a man of colour, possibly as much an outcast as Laura.
There is much to admire in the production, particularly Vicki Mortimer’s set design, which, together with the lighting and sound, also plays out gently into the auditorium. Yet I found if strangely underpowered, perhaps a little safe at the moment, lacking the emotional kick I have felt while watching other productions of the play. However, nerves will settle, and the second act scene between Jim and Laura is worth the price of the ticket alone.
The Glass Menagerie runs at The Duke Of York’s Theatre until 27 August 2022.
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