Reviewed by Tatum Stafford
This stirring play about memory and family features some incredible performances, beautiful music and reminders about just how far we’ve come when it comes to social issues like feminism and family dynamics.
Staged in the gorgeous His Majesty’s Theatre, which has recently undergone some stunning renovations and restoration to its iconic exterior, The Glass Menagerie is a beautiful piece of theatre that puts some of WA’s finest actors centre stage.
The play is set in the Wingfield family home, and explores the relationships between mother Amanda, daughter Laura, son Tom and their absent father, whose presence looms above all of their conversations and encounters – both figuratively, and literally, in some of the play’s creative use of projections.
Mandy McElhinney’s performance as matriarch Amanda was fantastic; committed and full of character. Each time she sashayed onto the stage it was clear the audience loved her work. Acacia Daken was similarly captivating as daughter Laura, and shared a wonderful scene with Jim O’Connor, played by Jake-Fryer Hornsby, in the second act. This detailed scene was a particular highlight for me, as it gave both actors plenty to relish and plenty of opportunities for vulnerability. Rounding out the cast was the charismatic Joel Jackson, who gave a very strong showing as Tom Wingfield, who doubled as the show’s confident narrator.
When it comes to the play’s production, there is plenty to both see and hear while the Wingfields go about their daily lives. Composer and pianist Tom O’Halloran is a fixed presence on stage, accompanying moments amongst the family with intricate underscoring, and some playful nods to the play’s themes and plotpoints (a waltz-style rendition of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” is a particular highlight). There were moments in the first act where the sound balance between piano and voice was a little jarring, but by the second act the two ‘instruments’ worked beautifully together. Projections were also utilised through the scenes, and though at times they felt a little literal, they provided an interesting modernisation and context to certain moments in the story.
Director Clare Watson’s vision is clear and excellently realised in this high-quality production. Fiona Bruce’s set and costume design is exemplary, and greatly helps contextualise this iconic Tennessee Williams piece. Brilliant work, as always, from Lucy Birkinshaw as lighting designer, and Julia Moody’s voice and accent coaching. Video design from Michael Carmody was beautiful to watch, particularly in the play’s more tender moments between Laura and Jim.
This is an iconic play, set in an equally iconic theatre – making for a really beautiful, solid production. And, judging by the wide range of ages amongst the audience on opening night, it’s clear there’s something everyone can enjoy within its rich text and splendid acting performances.
Photo credit Daniel J Grant