The Graduate Dramatic Society (GRADS) present Tennessee Williams’ much loved classic, “The Glass Menagerie” directed by Jane Hille.
“The Glass Menagerie” is essentially a memory play that begins with Tom Wingfield, as character and narrator, proclaiming that what we are about to see are glimpses of his memories in a time when he felt trapped inside the family home. Being the main breadwinner, since the father left home many years before, Tom feels enormous pressure to look after his mother, Amanda and particularly his sister Laura who is extremely shy, withdrawn and unable to cope with the outside world. Laura’s collection of glass animals is her only passion, and of course, the glass menagerie is the symbol of fragility of both the Wingfield household, and the characters in the play.
Wilful mother, Amanda Wingfield, intensely portrayed by Danielle Antaki, uses all the (limited) resources at her disposal to keep the family afloat. The character of Tom Wingfield is played by two actors: Andrew Matthews plays Tom, the narrator, looking back on this part of his life, suitably nostalgic; and James Ford brings the memory of Tom to life, suitably frustrated and feeling trapped in a situation he wants to escape. The source of Tom’s guilt, his sister Laura, is played by Donna O’Brien who captures Laura’s acute shyness beautifully. Jake Dennis as the gentleman caller, Jim O’Connor, brings a sincerity and charm to this minor role.
The set design, also by Hille, (constructed by Dean McAskil and Eddie Stowers) is instantly striking as you enter the theatre and a clear indication that this is not going to be a conventional production of the play. I admire the approach of directors who re-interpret the classics to appeal to contemporary audiences. Director Jane Hille has fully committed to her re-interpretation, even designing the set to create “the labyrinth of sinews of Tom’s mind”. In addition, Hille has directed the actors to adopt a distinctive style, perhaps inspired by readers’ theatre, in which the characters never address one another directly through eye contact or physical touching. This technique creates an enduring disconnect between the characters. however, I question the decision to continue this technique throughout. The dynamism and impact of adopting such performance styles is often through combining techniques, rather than focusing on one. Grounding the play with moments such as: Tom’s writing and poetic nature; and members of Laura’s glass menagerie that remind us of the fragility; the often referred to photo of the father whose absence is crucial to Tom’s predicament; would have given moments of emotion and connection that could have highlighted the detachment even more. Nevertheless, the commitment of all involved created a seamless production that was refreshing.
Myles Wright’s haunting sound design, particularly the main theme composed by Wright, is beautifully poignant and wistful.
“The Glass Menagerie” is showing at the Dolphin Theatre, University of Western Australia. There are only three more performances: tonight Friday 18 October at 7.30pm, and Saturday 19 October, 2pm and 7.30pm shows.
Bookings at ticketsWA: