The Glass Menagerie

Thu 10th – Sat 12th October 2013


Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 11:24 on 11th Oct 2013



The young cast of Thrust Stage portrayed ‘The Glass Menagerie’, a haunting and slightly disturbing piece of 1940s drama, with both sensitivity and commitment. True to Williams’ style, the production was pervaded by a tone of desolation and distortion, a disparity between the real world and the delusional fantasies of the characters. Laura (Hebe Beardsall) clings desperately to her collection of tiny, glass animals, and uses them to disappear into herself and block out the reality of a world into which she doesn’t fit.

The soft, dim, yet highly focused lighting techniques used were hugely effective in highlighting the contrasts within the characters’ worlds. It separates the protagonists from each other and their surroundings, and symbolises the way that they keep themselves and each other in the dark about the harsh world they live in. The use of space is used to similar effect; although there is no physical prop to signify what is indoors and what is the terrace, Amanda’s (Georgie Franklin) constant pleading for Tom (Joe Skelton) to “come inside” shows her desperation to drag him into the delicate fantasy that their apartment provides for them. A certain irony can be found in the fact that his only escape from this delusion is found in his obsession with movies and poetry, in themselves fantasies of adventure and a better life.

Although all four actors gave good performances, Franklin stood out with her stunning portrayal of overbearing, hysterical mother Amanda Wingfield. Deliberately annoying, she still managed to get across her anguish at the betrayal of her husband and her desperation to create a better life for her two, ultimately disappointing children. Her chemistry with Skelton as her son made for a heart-breaking and often comical interaction, as the family descends into disarray and Tom follows in the footsteps of his absent father.

What makes this performance so haunting and memorable is the original piano score (Musical Director, Rob Green). Used within scenes such as the interaction between Laura and Jim (Michael Ford), the cheery melody is almost enough to make us believe that an unexpected happy ending may be in order, until, seconds later we realize, along with the naïve Laura, that it was all too good to be true.

In places the show wasn’t quite as polished as it should have been, and in such an emotionally involving play slight malfunctions with lighting and costume were distracting. The Southern American accent is a difficult one for any actor to get right, but in places, especially during Skelton’s’s monologues as Tom, it sounded clumsy and made otherwise well-acted soliloquies lose a bit of their sincerity. However, overall this was a thoroughly involving and emotional portrayal of a great play, well done in all aspects, from the actors’ performances to the set, lighting and music.


Yolanda Davis

at 11:35 on 11th Oct 2013



Narrated by the aspiring poet Tom (Joe Skelton), Williams’ fragile by name but powerful by nature play, “The Glass Menagerie” takes us back to inter-war St Louis, to the home of the Wingfields. Abandoned by her husband, Amanda (Georgie Franklin) lives within her Southern Belle memories, forcing her children, dreamer Tom, and the shy and retired Laura (Hebe Beardsall) to ensure a perfect life that she believes she once had. The story follows Tom’s memory of the family and his mother’s continued efforts to better her children in a way she sees fit, a gentleman caller for her ‘perfect daughter’ and a sober and straight life at the Workhouse for her son till eventually the dreams of all three of the characters remain unfulfilled and the candles for any hopes made are blown out. If not a little transparent at times, this contextually accurate depiction of Tennessee Williams’ classic was acted well, if not after a little stumble at first, and left me entertained.

The assembly halls set the scene for our minimalist setting of the Wingfileds rather decrepit apartment, capturing the essence of the Depression very simply in a single sofa and a bare table and chairs. Pride of place however was given to the tiny glass unicorn, symbolically drawing the audience’s attention to the fragility of the dreams these characters held so dear, and were, by the end of the play, to end up broken. Classical use of lighting gave the set a bleak outlook, blue colouring enveloping the characters and overwhelming even the jollity of Jim (Michael Forde). A spotlight lit up the gruesome, omniscient God like figure of Amanda Wingfield’s estranged husband, his face taking pride of place at the head of the table, a constant reminder of his absence and of the life Mrs Wingfield once enjoyed. Through (ACTORIS NAME)’s interpretation this was a life she almost seemed to envy and miss. The production needn’t have been so dependent on the lighting, the Unicorn’s constant spotlight an unsubtle reminder of its poignancy throughout. It slightly inhibited any freedom of audience interpretation of the play, yet effectively gave a clear image of the directors (Matt Dann) and the casts take. Franklin upheld the performance as the tyrannical, almost bipolar character of Amanda, a woman lost in a whirlwind of memories yet in no way about to let them slip from her grasp. While both children slightly stumbled in stage presence at the beginning of the play, both Skelton and Beardsall grew well by the end, Laura’s nervous disposition around her childhood sweetheart and her obsessive physicality around her glass menagerie enough to make the audience feel slightly uncomfortable, while Tom’s longing for action pulled at the heartstrings. The chemistry between the actors however, was clearly tangible, the 4 reacting well off of each other to ensure a mostly well performed piece. The original score also worked extremely well, the gentle lulls of the piano seeping throughout certain scenes adding a sorrowful overture to this bleak ending for Tom’s memory.

As I hoped with a rendition of such a play, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ left me with a rather dreary reminder as to the fragility of dreams even Jim’s happy High school story leaving him nothing more than a hope and a public speaking night course. Yet this was through a strong effort by both cast and direction that led to such a thought if it was perhaps slightly unsubtle.


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