The Glass Menagerie
Duke of York’s Theatre, London until August 27
There’s a dreamlike, ethereal quality to Jeremy Herrin’s production of The Glass Menagerie, which is, of course, entirely fitting as it’s about memories and that’s how they are. This semi-autobiographical work, focusing on Tennessee Williams’s early life in 1920s America with a domineering mother
and a mentally fragile sister, made the young playwright’s name.
The big star turn in this revival is Amy Adams, the frequently Oscar-nominated actress perhaps best known for the films Enchanted and Arrival. She plays not the character based on Williams’s sister – the play’s showiest role – but Amanda Wingfield, the matriarch trying to keep her family together, but, sadly, only driving it further apart.
Adams plays her as an unsettling cross between Baby Jane and Miss Havisham – occasionally taking it upon herself to wear outlandish dresses and dancing around – and her one overriding fixation is to see her daughter, Laura (Lizzie Annis) married off to someone suitable.
She desperately fastens all her hopes on a factory colleague mentioned by her boozy son, Tom (Tom Glynn-Carney) and the play skilfully builds up the hopes and fears in the run-up to the arrival of this “gentleman caller”.
For once, this show boasts a Hollywood star content just to get on with some proper acting and she is more than happy to see Annis, as her anxious, manic daughter, more or less steal the show. Annis rises to the occasion magnificently: she invests Laura with a clumsy gait, obvious paranoia and a heart-rending vulnerability.
Victor Alli gives the gentleman caller a courteous, well-meaning, but matter-of-fact air – he is, of course, completely oblivious to the hopes he has riding on him – and yet achieves a rather wonderful chemistry with Laura before he makes it clear he’s spoken for.
The character of Tom is, of course, Williams looking back on his life, and
in this production Glynn-Carney’s performance is complemented by Paul
Hilton as his older, rueful self. Herrin’s production is a beautiful, seamlessly acted and performed production, with an atmosphere all of its own, that’s perfect for the hot summer nights.