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The Glass Menagerie

March 26th - March 30th

 

Atri Banerjee’s acclaimed production of Tennessee Williams’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece comes to Malvern starring Geraldine Somerville (Gosford Park, Harry Potter) as Amanda.

Tom escapes a suffocating home life through cigarettes and long visits to the movies while his sister, Laura, withdraws into her records and collection of glass animals. But their mother, Amanda, harbours dreams for them far beyond their shabby apartment. When Tom brings home a potential suitor for Laura, Amanda seizes the opportunity to try and change their fortunes forever.

The Glass Menagerie is a poetic portrayal of a family on the brink of change. This intimate and intense memory play explores the complex web of love and loyalty that binds families together.

THE GLASS MENAGERIE is presented by special arrangement with The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee

 

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval)

Please click HERE for the Glass Menagerie show programme

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Details

Start:
March 26th
End:
March 30th
Event Categories:
, , ,

Venue

Festival Theatre
Grange Road
Malvern, WR14 3HB

Other

Price:
Wed Mat: £36.96 £34.72 £32.48 £29.12 £25.76
Tues-Thurs Eves & Sat Mat: £39.20 £36.96 £34.72 £31.36 £28.00
Fri & Sat Eves: £42.56 £40.32 £38.08 £34.72 £31.36
£2 concessions over 60s /unwaged
Under 26s £8.96
Members Discounts Apply
Price Incudes 12% Booking Fee
Show Times:
Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th March
Eves 7.30pm; Wed & Sat Mats 2.30pm

Event Reviews

  • Showtime! John Philpott

    Any man who has the brass neck to change his name from the everyday Thomas to ‘Tennessee’ certainly gets my vote.

    The celebrated American author apparently decided on the name change when he entered a playwriting competition for the under 25s. Not only did he lie – he was then aged nearly 28 – but he travelled several hundred miles to another town in a further attempt to complete the fraud and thereby deceive the judges.

    Thomas Lanier Williams was born in Columbus, Mississippi, and the majority, if not all his most famous works, were set in the Deep South during the Great Depression.

    Together with the fellow members of that generation of writers hailing from below the Mason-Dixon line, he wove complex, intense tales of Southern life that brimmed with human frailty and societal tensions.

    The eternally romantic notion of the Lost Cause in a fabled land oozing with mint juleps, white oaks and Spanish moss waving in the Southern breeze, is never far away from his consciousness, as evidenced in classic stories such as Sweet Bird of Youth and A Streetcar Named Desire.

    As it happens, this particular play’s minimalistic set conjures up none of that intoxicating imagery, and appears to almost purposely avoid the standard cliché. Perhaps director Atri Banerjee has deliberately done this, maybe to allow Williams’ glorious language full rein without any visual distractions.

    What dominates this otherwise barren wasteland is the huge neon dance hall sign that reads ‘Paradise’. It couldn’t be more ironic, for it hangs like the suffocating wings of some enormous bird of prey, poised to drop on some hapless victim.

    Nevertheless, this was the only minus point in what is otherwise an absorbing piece of mid-20th century drama by a hugely talented writer.

    The Glass Menagerie is a semi-autobiographical piece which traces the empty existence of Tom Wingfield (Kasper Hilton Hille) who lives out a fantasy life through his constant visits to the movies.

    The darkness of his cinematic sanctuary is a refuge from his dead end job at a warehouse, and mirrors a life that is going nowhere.

    His sister Laura (Natalie Kimmerling) is also an oddball, retreating into her absent father’s phonograph records and poring over her collection of glass animals. And completing this straining at the seams set-up is their mother Amanda (Geraldine Somerville).

    It’s a dysfunctional situation and the watermelon cart is soon to be seriously upset by the arrival of Jim O’Connor (Zacchaeus Kayode), who has been parachuted into the family home by Tom, as a potential suitor for Laura. Amanda decides that the family fortunes can now be changed forever.

    Ms Somerville cuts an impressive figure as the Southern matriarch, a manipulative individual whose clipped, at times icy demeanour could chill even a Mississippi high summer noon time.

    Yes, she is intent on changing the family’s fortunes, but will the price be too great? Watching this woman going at full tilt, one is reminded of the doomed mouse mesmerised by a snake. One false move and all that.

    The tensions in this story of a family enmeshed in a complex web of love and conflicting loyalties never let up for single second. For not far below the surface of a mother and her siblings seemingly at peace with one another lies a contradictory tale of close relatives at war with themselves.

    The Glass Menagerie, produced by acclaimed director Banerjee, is a heart-wrenching masterpiece that has lost none of its power and impetus since its creation in 1944, and is therefore warmly recommended.

    Oh yes, and one more thing. When plain old Thomas became ‘Tennessee’ the ensuing result flew in the face of the old idea that liars never prosper, because he won the playwriting contest hands down.

    But then, you’d probably guessed that hadn’t you?

  • The View From The Stalls

    A modern take on a classic story

    Although first premiered in 1944, Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie has been given a complete modern facelift for the current production by presenting it on a huge glossy circle with collections of small glass animals on its outer edge and, later, a mass of jonquils (daffodils) and candles. But the stand-out item on the stage is a huge neon sign indicating PARADISE which, for most of the play is revolving at different speeds. The scene is just about as far from actual Tennessee that you could imagine.

    There are 4 characters in this play. The mother Amanda Wingfield (Geraldine Somerville), son Tom (Kasper Hilton-Hille), daughter Laura (Natalie Kimmerling) and "gentleman caller" Jim O’Connor (Zacchaeus Kayode). The husband, whilst mentioned, has long since departed.

    The mother regrets her position in life, having married a man who did not give her the Southern Belle lifestyle she might have expected since her husband just worked for a telephone company. Her son works in a local warehouse whilst her daughter, who is disabled, stays at home and is painfully shy and pretty much a recluse. Jim, on the other hand, is a fellow worker in the warehouse, known to both son and daughter, and it is he who brings some happiness, albeit temporary and fleeting, to the house.

    The characters wander on, off and around the stage with a natural fluidity, unencumbered by anything on the set (there are just a few chairs and that is it - everything else is imagined). The Paradise sign refers to a nearby dance hall and it is dance that brings together Jim and Laura who finally loses her shyness and gets involved in a most beautifully-choreographed sequence, danced to Whitney Houston's One Moment In Time.

    This is one of the author's most personal stories, written a year after his sister had an ill-fated lobotomy which left her incapacitated for life. It is an example of a "memory play" (a term created by Williams) in which a lead character narrates the events of the play, which are drawn from the character's memory. And memories can, of course, be accurate or deceiving but always real to the person reflecting on past events.

    The excellent acting and staging work together to bring a modern feel to a tale told through memories.

  • Simon

    A super production of a great play. All 4 actors were strong but Natalie Kimmerling gave a stunning performance as Laura. Both she and Zacchaeus Kayode (who played Jim) look to be young actors with big futures ahead of them.

    Great to see Malvern continue to put this type of play on

  • Paul

    Seen last night in the Festival Theatre. A powerful play, beautifully written and acted. The set is best described as minimalistic, but, unlike some modern productions, this does not detract or feel pretentious, although I think the open staging comes at a loss of some of the stultifying claustrophobia that Tennessee Williams was trying to create. In Amanda Wingfield, Geraldine Somerville (Lily Potter in the Harry Potter films) has a role to die for and she gives it everything without overplaying her hand which I suspect could be easily done with the themes of the play - a mother’s love for her children, tangled with her desire to control them, Tom’s need to escape his humdrum existence but torn by loyalty to his mother and a sister who’s crippled more in mind than body. Not a fan of the dance scene - maybe just a personal thing as I really can’t stand “One Moment in Time” by Whitney Houston. Seemed an incongruous choice given the setting of the play, more something you’d belt out at the end of a school disco. Yes, I get that this is a modern take on a classic, but, even so, it jars a bit.

    The audience reaction at the end showed they had fully appreciated the acting talent on show and had been taken through the emotional wringer, ending with Tom’s poignant closing words. Shame there weren’t more in the auditorium to enjoy it.

  • Fairy Powered Productions - Courie Amado Juneau

    Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, written in 1944, was the play that turned him into a major force to be reckoned with. It’s an interesting work which tells the story of the Wingfield’s, a family who live within financial constraints that the matriarch is not used to or reconciled with. Her constant interfering in her children’s lives (to avoid the situation perpetuating) causes more than a little friction and heartache.

    Amanda Wingfield, a former southern belle whose star has faded after a misjudged union (we’ve all been there – love is, after all, blind), was wrought in sparkling form by Geraldine Somerville. I loved the way she pivoted from old school charm and reverie to explosions of anger, disappointment and frustration – in an intense performance that was at once both quiet and yet turned up to full blast.

    Kasper Hilton-Hille played Tom (Amanda’s son). A poetic soul who is suffocated by his home life (specifically living under his mother’s tyrannical thumb) but also an uninspiring job in a factory. Kasper squeezed every ounce of emotion off the page, giving us a character who we totally empathised with and ended up liking enormously in a richly nuanced portrayal.

    Laura (Amanda’s daughter) is socially awkward and she increasingly takes comfort in the private refuge of her own crystaline world – the glass menagerie of the title. Like the small glass unicorn that features prominently, she is unique and fragile. Natalie Kimmerling gave us a beautiful reading, showing great range from incredible vulnerability to wonderfully joyous. The superb use of music to symbolise various states like retreating into a cocoon (headphones on) and dance to symbolise finally cracking open her protective shell was particularly effective throughout. Natalie was simply sensational in a performance that was full of motion and emotion.

    Zacchaeus Kayode played former star of the high school Jim O’Connor whose athleticism and great voice had caught Laura’s attention years before. A charming, charismatic portrayal that was creditably subtle showed a real understanding of character that does this young actor much justice and rounds out a fine cast.

    With wonderful use of light (including candles) allowing a palette of shifting emotions, an interesting circular stage evoking (to me) the cyclic drudgery of life or perhaps the protagonists endless spiral downward emotionally and music like a movie soundtrack setting the mood perfectly the production team should feel justifiably proud of the world they created.

    The “One Moment In Time” dance (between Laura and Jim) was the absolute highlight for me. It was the romance I’d been longing for. Just how I remember it is supposed to feel in real life. If only! If this had been on TV I’d have rewound it numerous times.

    This play is richly nuanced with many universal echoes that resonate loudly within us. I found myself sitting in my seat at the conclusion wondering just what I had seen. It seemed that I had added as many layers to the play from my own experience as there were already on stage. I could quite happily see this masterpiece again and again and I urge you all to catch it while you can.

  • British Theatre Guide - Colin Davison

    A huge illuminated sign, Paradise, the ironic name of the adjacent dance-hall, rotates very slowly over a circular stage, within which the family seem trapped, mother Amanda clinging onto lost days of youthful conquests, poetic son Tom seeking escape and the preternaturally shy daughter Laura, mentally bruised by childhood disability.

    Amanda, long abandoned by a drunkard husband, maintains stiff Southern courtesy at all costs, hoping for the day a ‘gentleman caller’ will visit Laura in their St Louis, Missouri home. When Tom invites a warehouse colleague, it turns out to be Joe, the former schoolmate whom Laura secretly idolised, but after their emotionally-charged meeting—which brought a large lump to my throat—Laura breaks as easily as one of the glass animals that surround them.

    The play, filled with love, anger and regret, is directly autobiographical, Tennessee Williams’s schizophrenic sister having spent most of her life in mental institutions following a prefrontal lobotomy in 1943 that their mother had authorised. Williams was appalled and wrote the play the following year. The events dominated his feelings and writing for the rest of his life, and when he died, he left most of his fortune for her care.

    Atri Banerjee’s production does not attempt naturalism. Rosanna Vize’s set and Lee Curran’s stunning lighting design mean there is little sense of the hot, suffocating environment of the Deep South, but there is no let-up in the emotional charge.

    Geraldine Somerville is the perfect picture of enforced Southern gentility, reluctant to abandon a reverie of her one-time 17 gentlemen callers, but pulling every sinew as taut as a bowstring as she confronts a sad world of lost dreams.

    Natalie Kimmerling is magnificent as Laura, devoting her time to the care of her rainbow-coloured miniature menagerie, moving with short, hesitant steps, but longing to be swept up by the very forces she fears. Kasper Hilton-Hille plays Tom (Williams’s real name before he changed it to Tennessee) with a wistful tenderness.

    But the longest speech addressed to Laura is given not to Tom but to the ‘gentleman caller’ Joe, played by Zacchaeus Kayode, who delivers the writer's elegantly crafted lines with feeling and precision. He urges her to be proud to be different, to rise above her lack of self-confidence, to be special. It is particularly poignant as Williams wrote his address knowing it contained an injunction she could never fulfil.


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