City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Glass Menagerie Review

By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 16 January 2008

Show Details
Royal Lyceum
Jemima Levick (director), Jessica Brettle (designer), Chris Davey (Lighting), Philip Pinsky (composer)
Joseph Arkley (Tom), Barbara Marten (Amanda), Nicola Harrison (Laura), Antony Eden (Jim)
Running time: 

It’s Tennessee Williams’ ability to write about timeless, trans-atlantic themes, inherently part of the human experience that make him popular. His 1944 debut investigates family tensions through the exploration of a parent reacting to disappointments and failures through their children.

This family drama is driven by dreamer and poet Tom (Joseph Arkley) and his memories of his demanding, manipulating mother Amanda (Barbara Marten) who tirelessly cajoles him for his wayward ways while simultaneously badgering his painfully reclusive sister Laura (Nicola Harrison) into courtship. A visit from gentleman caller Jim (Antony Eden) is the catalyst that forces realism on the trio, confronting the oppressive influences of people who know each other’s weaknesses better than their own.

Jessica Brettle’s dilapidated St. Louis apartment set, framed by a clanky airshaft, highlights the claustrophobia of an encroaching world, and the numerous broken windows represent the shattered dreams of each character, encased in their own fantastic deliriums, represented through Laura’s collection of glass animalcule.

Arkley’s Tom carries the memory play on his lanky shoulders beautifully, portraying a restless dreamer who is at once a sarcastic little boy and an experienced, tired man. Marten’s Amanda is unsteady and often difficult to understand, failing to balance the complex duality of the faded Southern Belle’s nostalgic memory and bitter realisations.

The pivotal scene between Laura and Jim is a highlight, with Eden’s Jim being both infectiously comic and squeamishly cocky. Delicately delivered, it builds into a finale that is a poignantly haunting moment of cruelly brief romantic happiness. Harrison relaxes into her performance, hindered by an early stint of hamminess, her Laura blossoms into an understated delicate flower, without sentimentality.

Williams’ text beautifully demonstrates that the dividing line between control and concern, love and destruction is heartbreakingly thin, drawing on his own relationship with his mother and the botched lobotomy which was inflicted on his real life sister, Rose. Yet Jemima Levick’s direction doesn’t shy away from the dark humour at the core of this tragic tale. Delivered with slow-burning suspense inter-cut with moments of the embarrassingly funny, Levick exploits the voyeuristic intimacy of observing the private idiosyncrasies of a family plagued by jealousy, guilt and bitterness.

A piece so evocative of its time and place yet simultaneously fresh in its pertinent look into the human psyche, this is an enjoyable treat, but doesn’t quite stretch far enough, lacking the focus and energy that make any classical revival worthwhile.

© Lindsay Corr – January 2008

The Glass Menagerie runs until 9 February, Tuesday to Saturday at 7.45pm. Matinees, 16, 19, 23, 26, 30 January, 2 February at 2.30pm.

Photo: Antony Eden & Nicola Harrison in The Glass Menagerie. Photographer Richard Campbell

Read Vivien Devlin's review of The Glass Menagerie