The Glass Menagerie displays many of the recognisable characteristics that made Tennessee Williams one of the most popular playwrights of the 20th Century. The play’s setting in the Deep South, strained family relationships and stifled atmosphere are all familiar elements of the author’s writing.
At the play’s opening Tom Wingfield, (Tom Pinny,) addresses the audience directly informing us that this is a memory play and “therefore non-realistic.” He goes to sat that “Memory takes a lot of poetic licence. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart.” In other words we see the events of the play through Tom’s eyes. What takes place before us is subject to his viewpoint. After Tom and Laura’s father left home unannounced 16 years earlier the Wingfield’s have struggled to survive just managing to scrape by on Tom’s modest wage. Although it is evident Tom loves his mother and sister he is overburdened and the need to escape consumes him. Tom Pinny gives an engaging and fiery performance throughout the play managing to get across the young man’s immense frustration.
Tom’s mother Amanda (Angela Edwards,) is anxious of will become of her two children, particularly the shy and retiring daughter. The pragmatic and feisty Amanda plans to marry Laura, (Holly Kirkpatrick,) off to a gentleman who can take good care of her. Angela Edwards is brilliant in her role as the fussy Amanda Wingfield her recollections of her youth as a feted Southern Belle who attracted the attention of many gentleman suitors bring ripples of laughter from the audience. A latter-day Mrs Bennet Amanda is taken with romantic idea that a dashing gentleman will give Laura a secure and stable life. Not an easy task given that “crippled” daughter barely leaves home, spends most of the day polishing her collection of glass ornaments and playing her father’s worn out records. However, when Tom invites work colleague, the charming Jim O’Connor, (Robert Tart,) over for dinner Amanda goes all out and buys Laura brand new dress especially for the occasion.
Against all the odds Jim and Laura appear to hit to off, the two even going as far as to share a intimate kiss on the living room sofa. When Laura shows Jim her prized glass collection he is charmed by her tender innocence. It appears that Jim’s gentle encouragement has taken Laura out of her shell. She even laughs things off when he accidently breaks her favourite glass unicorn. Things go awry, however, when Jim makes a shock confession to Laura. An inconsolable Amanda places the blame on Tom for failing to let them know exactly what the situation was. At the play’s conclusion Tom looks back on his home life having fled the family home just like his father before him. He tells the audience that he had to get away but Laura is forever on his mind, “Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!”
The Little Theatre’s production of The Glass Menagerie is a very impressive rendering of the Williams’s play. The production features a first rate cast that manage to convey a profound sense of sadness, loss and the lingering thoughts of what could have been.
The Glass Menagerie runs until Saturday January 11th. For ticket information visit http://www.thelittletheatre.net/ or call: 0116 2551302.