Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE, Rose Theatre

A sparse and haunting production

By: Apr. 19, 2024
Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE, Rose Theatre
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Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE, Rose Theatre As delicate and fragile as one of the glass creatures that are collected, Tennesse Williams' beguiling story of memory, The Glass Menagerie combines themes of hope, rejection and disappointment with profound sadness.  A faded Southern Belle mother seeks a "gentleman caller" for her lonely daughter. A frustrated and directionless son brings an old friend to dinner. A family fractured by both events and memories.

Well received during its run at Manchester's Royal Exchange, Director Atri Banerjee now brings his stark and bewitching production down south to the Rose Theatre as part of a tour to Bristol and Bath.

The production feels like a genuinely fresh take on the story, with each actor bringing out natural and highly credible characteristics in their roles. Geraldine Somerville reprises her role as mother Amanda; she tones down the slightly manic air that is often shown in the character, showing more maternal concern for both her children. Her impatience and attempts to control the narrative are hidden behind convincing sing-song vowels and overblown ladylike gestures.

Natalie Kimmerling brings huge delicacy and vulnerability to daughter Laura. She tiptoes around the stage, almost seeming to want to melt into the floor. Kimmerling's devastation as her hopes of a relationship are dashed are heartbreakingly realistic. She has a tender chemistry with Zacchaeus Kayode's hugely likable Jim, the highlight being a wonderfully evocative dance duet, brought to life through Laura's imagination.

Kasper Hilton-Hille's Tom is as much of an outsider as his sister, struggling to find meaning in his monotonous existence. Hilton-Hille is highly believable in the role, unable to change his family's situation in any way, except to leave.

The thread of desperation runs deep in this production and connects each character; Amanda is a mother desperate for her children to be anything other than what they are, Tom to escape his quotidian life, Laura is desperate for human connection. Even Jim shows glimpses of the emotion in his desire to not offend Laura, but do the right thing by his fiancée. This is pain and heartache slowly released.

Rosanna Vize’s set is visually as stark as the emotions within the production; a large circular plinth, empty except for the glass figurine collection set around the outside edge. The actors use the breadth of the space, often circling each other, emphasising the physical distances.

Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE, Rose Theatre

High above a neon sign saying "PARADISE" rotates at varying speeds as though reacting to the momentum of the play. It is referring to the music hall across the road, but is also a clear taunt of what will remain unattainable for each character. Giles Thomas' music and sound design creates an almost ethereal soundscape, languid like the Southern heat one moment, then blasting in Whitney Houston's "One Moment In Time" to give life to Laura's fantasies.

You don't go to a Tennesse William's play expecting something explosively fast in pace; Banerjee's direction is suitably languid and meditative in feeling, but there are a few  where it begins to drag rather than beguile. However, this is a hypnotic production, making the conclusion all the more shattering.

The Glass Menagerie is at the Rose Theatre until 4 May, then touring to Bristol Old Vic — 7-11 May, Theatre Royal Bath — 13-18 May, Alexandra Palace — 22 May-1 June

Photo Credits: Marc Brenner


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