Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Beautiful Blues for a Bleak Childhood

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Beautiful Blues for a Bleak Childhood

Article excerpt



The Glass Menagerie Apollo Theatre ****

IT DOES NOT rise to stormy heights of painful conflict. It offers no revelation of secrets long-concealed, but Rupert Goold's dream- struck production of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie finally convinces me this is one of the great, unhappy family-life plays in the modern American repertoire.

The unhappiness is not on the grand, terrible scale, like Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, or beset by domestic cruelties as in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? This is Williams's own early family life, a "memory play", his lower-middleclass blues for the Depression years in the Deep South - faintly disguised. You could describe it as Look Back In Angst, though traces of rueful comedy intervene.

The character of Tom, powerfully brought to dissatisfied life by Ed Stoppard and without that familiar belligerent glare of his, is Williams's alter ego and the play's narrator. Obliged to earn a menial living while he longs to be a poet, this gay-sounding youth frequents late-night movie houses and plans to run away, as his father did years ago. His mother Amanda pines for her days as a Southern belle whom all the beaux adored and aspires to have her handicapped daughter, Laura, married off.

All three end up stripped of their self-protecting illusions. Only Laura's menagerie of glass animals remain intact.

The crucial scene between Mark Umbers' handsome but unhappy Jim, the gentleman caller, and Amanda Hale's superlative, bedraggled Laura, eyes downcast and body language all doleful, is played with an overpowering sense of intimacy and delicacy. In Umbers' brilliant, believable reading, the gentleman caller, engaged to a "homely" girl, genuinely falls for Laura, who has long nursed a secret passion for him. She gazes at him transfixed.

Having raised the girl's erotic hopes, he then comes to his senses and dashes them to pieces. …

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