It’s amazing the difference between studying a piece of theatre and watching it being performed. I understand why people hate theatre when they’ve studied it at school. I disliked The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams ever since I studied. I found it boring and pointless, and I hated the characters. I completely disregarded seeing it, and how different it would be performed.
I saw The Glass Menagerie today as part of The Edinburgh International Festival. The first thing to mention about the production is the set. The set has to be one of the best sets I have ever seen. It reminded me of a concept of a set that was too ambitious to pull off. It consisted of two octagons, creating a parlour and dining room with a balcony. This was surrounded in water, creating a reflective night sky, suspending the set in water. In time like a menagerie, creating a closed capsule. Suspending the set and all the action in it. This was all aided by the lighting, a light haziness flooding the set, making the play feel like a memory. Along with the score. The Score was gorgeous. The Score was beautiful, absolutely made the show. It gave an aura of serendipity, and framed the whole action.
The Acting, and direction was fabulous. Michael Esper, Tom, was brilliant, his narration was a needed element, with his movements and body language, slipping in and out of time, was amazing. His chemistry with Cherry Jones, The Mother, was perfect, humanising this character that I once hated. Seth Numrich, Jim, and Kate O’Flynn, Laura, had really good chemistry as well, the scene with them alone in the parlour was lovely. The characters developed really well together, and frankly it was just cute. I remembered why I disliked The Glass Menagerie, when I was watching that scene. I dislike Laura and Jim’s characters. I thought Laura was too weak, and Jim was full of himself, but I realised throughout that scene they developed, and they developed each other. They way they were portrayed, it changed my mind about them. I like to think Laura developed for the better after her interaction with Jim, the ending is slightly ambiguous about that, if not more pessimistic. I think this is shown with the unicorn breaking. Laura threw the horn into the water, and created a ripple effect. A beautiful metaphor. The moments of dance and physical theatre, isolated with the use of the lighting showed so much underneath the narrative. It showed the true beauty of the characters and the fragility of the Laura.
The most beautiful scenes had to be with the moon and the lights in the water. Shining, with the reflection of the characters. It was gorgeous, the stars and the moon, creating an image of hope, shining in reflection. Coupled with the music, it had this amazing feel to it. Using the menagerie and the moon as symbols and metaphors, with the Tennessee Williams usual imagery of the American Dream, just out of reach. The suspension of time in the production, having it all in about real time, and was wonderfully aided by Toms extraction from the story.
The whole production was very cleverly done, and I am so glad I had the chance to see it. Seeing it performed truly brought the show to life, bringing comedy to the mundane, meaning to the meaningless. It changed my opinion on The Glass Menagerie. It’s still not my favourite show, but it was very beautifully portrayed. There was something so poignant, about these seemingly mundane characters, portrayed so poetically, showing that they were so damaged.