BWW Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE at The Gate Theatre

BWW Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE at The Gate Theatre
Samantha Bond in the Gate Theatre production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Photography by Ste Murray.

A Triumphant Success

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Henry David Thoreau

Tennessee Williams in his essay 'The Catastrophe of Success' paints a poignant picture of his life following the startling success of his play The Glass Menagerie. He confides: "I was not aware of how much vital energy had gone into this struggle until the struggle was removed." Seven decades later Williams' masterpiece remains a staple in American schools and continues to profoundly move audiences.

In this "memory play" the Wingfields, a disenchanted St. Louis family, depict an alternative reality to their dull, dispiriting lives. The son and narrator, Tom Wingfield (Marty Rea) escapes to a brighter envisioned future, his mother Amanda (Samantha Bond) reaches into her glorious past in an attempt to fashion a similar reality for her daughter, and his painfully shy sister Laura (Zara Devlin) reluctantly emerges from the blissful world of her glass menagerie to entertain the possibility of love. Jim O'Conner (Frank Blake), the gentleman caller, appears in Act 2 oblivious of the complex family dynamics.

BWW Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE at The Gate Theatre
Marty Rea in the Gate Theatre production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Photography by Ste Murray.

The beauty of this iconic play is that we can empathize with each of the characters. Seeking to escape our daily grind; unintentionally smothering whilst attempting to love; selling ourselves short and conceding faded dreams of a golden future.

The cast all gave outstanding performances. Tom (Marty Rae) was the easiest to read. He wore his emotions on his sleeve and his bitterness and frustration were apparent as was his sense of duty to his family and deep affection for Laura. Samantha Bond follows in the footsteps of Jessica Tandy, Katherine Hepburn and Joanne Woodward giving a stirring performance as Amanda. She remains resolute and stoic through all their adversities. Her devotion is tangible and we can only imagine the true depths of her pain. Safe and comfortable in the company of her mother, brother and glass menagerie, Laura (Zara Devlin) views any change with sheer terror. She is paralysed with the arrival of Jim, later making a valiant effort to converse with him. Jim (Frank Blake) gallant and lively, swoops in and out of their household, unintentionally leaving a train wreck in his wake.

BWW Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE at The Gate Theatre
Frank Blake and Zara Devlin in the Gate Theatre production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Photography by Ste Murray.

Director and Designer Tom Cairns remained true to Williams' vision for the play "with motions honed down to only the essential or significant." Working with an exquisite script and cast, he ensured that the emotions were kept raw and real. Nothing distracted from the brilliant dialogue. The no-frills design of the dining and living room was aesthetically pleasing whilst the fire-escape and balcony were entrusted to our imaginations.

Costume Designer Lorna Marie Mugan's creations tugged at our heartstrings. Tom's carelessly disheveled attire, unlike his dapper father. Amanda's elegant but sadly faded floral frock, her well worn dressing gown, a tad short with mismatched belt. And her "fussy gold antique dress" long past its heyday. Laura's cardigan & skirt so painfully plain as to make her invisible and her reluctant transformation to Southern belle in dazzling white.

BWW Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE at The Gate Theatre
Marty Rea and Samantha Bond in the Gate Theatre production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Photography by Ste Murray.

Voice Coach Gavin O'Donoghue worked magic with the cast. Rae & Devlin both nailed the Midwestern brogue and Bond's sweet Southern lilt was charming. Blake's accent as well as his impeccable manners were also distinctly Southern. Lighting Designer Paul Keogan and Sound Designer Sinéad Diskin rounded up the creative team with impressive projections and nostalgic melodies.

The Gate Theatre provided the perfect setting for this deeply intimate family narrative. This Irish interpretation of a quintessential American classic has been meticulously planned and beautifully executed. The audience soared and plummeted with the cast. It was a pure joy to attend and made me pine for my former home in the Midwest.

The Glass Menagerie runs at The Gate Theatre 
from 25th April - 1 June 2019
BWW Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE at The Gate Theatre
Zara Devlin in the Gate Theatre production of The Glass Menagerieby Tennessee Williams. Photography by Ste Murray.


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From This Author Jini Rooney

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