The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre – Review

The Glass MenagerieThe Glass Menagerie is a memory play, says the narrator, Tom Wingfield, at the beginning. He knows what’s going to happen. He tells us it will be the arrival of that long-delayed something we live for.

The set glows, the impression is of warmth and welcome although it’s the small interior of an impoverished 1930s apartment in St Louis where Tom lives with his mother and sister. The apartment is entered by means of a fire escape, which stretches way up into the dark, as if it’s a ladder to the stars.

Which is a metaphor for something else this play is about. The ways in which people’s minds may reach in isolation for their own secret dreams and illusions while daily sharing physical places. A woman requires a man as a financial necessity in these times.

Tom, played by Michael Esper, works in a warehouse in a job he detests while longing to be a writer. He’s been obliged to take on the financial responsibility for his mother, Amanda and fragile sister, Laura, because his father has long ago wandered off into irresponsibility, to explore the world. As Tom wishes to, as Tom knows he will, looking back on the events he’s describing in the play. He’s the bad son of a bad man, he says.

Cherry Jones played Amanda in director, John Tiffany’s original production of the play which opened on Broadway to considerable acclaim. Her appearance in this role at the Duke of York’s Theatre marks her West End debut where Miss Jones is commanding as the great stage character that is Amanda Wingfield. A woman who attempts to control her adult children while they evade her, just as their father did, Amanda is desperate to ensure the family’s continued survival by whatever means she must, dealing with her straightened circumstances with bravado and dash, sometimes delusion. Her melodramatic propensity for bragging about the supposed glory days of her youth makes her appear ridiculous at first.

But it is Amanda’s inner world of the delight of reminiscence, whether embellished or not, which carries through the difficulties of her impoverished, disappointing present. As she ruminates about other lives she might have enjoyed, if only she had not fallen in love with the man she did. As she tells her daughter to wish for happiness and a little luck.

Tom and his mother explore their relationship in the first act, bound together in place but isolated from one another in strident frustration and resistance. He fights with his mother to claim his identity as she fights the same old desperate battles she must once have fought with his father, seeking to make him stay.

It is Laura, played by Kate O’Flynn, who brings beautiful nuance and delicacy to this family and also to this production. She slips into Tom’s memory of the family sitting room through the back of the sofa. She’s a delicate, crippled girl, who thinks little of herself, aware she is strange, not like other girls. For Laura is by inclination solitary, visiting the penguins at the zoo daily while pretending to be at college. She also has a collection of ornamental glass animals, one of which is a unicorn, she loves to play with. When Laura’s alone, as she engages with this tiny menagerie, many small lights reflect in the water pools surrounding the hexagonal petals on which the set sits. It’s a beautiful, moving representation of the world of the imagination.

Laura is forced by her mother to participate in a meeting with her brother’s friend from work, played by Brian J Smith. Hilariously, Amanda welcomes this Gentleman Caller to her home in the Southern Belle style dress she was wearing when she first met her no-good husband, and proceeds to flirt with him.

It is however when Amanda and Tom have left the stage to Laura and her Gentleman Caller that magic happens. What is conjured up between the pair of them is the creation of a memory sufficiently tender to haunt them both for the rest of their lives.

Brian J. Smith and Kate O’Flynn work perfectly together, his masculinity, her femininity, their characters different natures complementing one another as they open up sufficiently to one another to discover they are able to share and marvel at each other’s inner worlds. How they shine, these two as they do that.

Go. It’s a wonderful, unforgettable production.

4 Stars

Review by Marian Kennedy

Time is the longest distance between two places.

Following a multi-Tony Award-nominated run on Broadway, Oliver and Tony Award-winning director John Tiffany (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two, Let the Right One In, Black Watch) revives his visionary staging of Tennessee Williams’ heart-rending masterpiece about a family struggling to survive on hopes and dreams.

A domineering mother. A daughter lost in a world of her own. A son desperate to leave. Former Southern Belle Amanda Wingfield, played by Tony Award-winning Broadway icon Cherry Jones, enlists the help of son Tom (Michael Esper) to find a husband for her fragile daughter Laura (Kate O’Flynn). But will the long-awaited ‘gentleman caller’ (Brian J. Smith) fulfil or shatter the family’s delicate dreams?

A universally acclaimed creative team bring 1930’s St Louis stylishly to life. With movement by Olivier Award-winning Steven Hoggett, Set and Costume Design by multi Tony Award-winner Bob Crowley, Lighting Design by multi Tony Award-winner Natasha Katz, Sound Design from Olivier and Tony Award-winning Paul Arditti and Music by celebrated composer Nico Muhly, this is a stunning and evocative production of Tennessee Williams’ heart-breaking classic.

The Glass Menagerie
Duke of York’s Theatre
45 St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BG
Book Tickets for The Glass Menagerie

  • Running Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Show Opened: 26th January 2017
  • Booking Until: 29th April 2017

    Book Tickets for London West End at www.londontheatre1.com

Review of Trumpageddon at the King’s Head Theatre

Simon Jay TrumpageddonIf you’re on a first date or insecure Trumeggedon is unlikely to be the perfect show for you. If, however, you’ve got a bit of banter and there’s something on your mind you’d like to tackle Donald Trump about, you might find this show fun.

Might, because since Trump is now President Elect, the question you’ll have to decide for yourself before showing up is whether his attitudes to women, gays and anyone he decides to categorise as a foreigner have become so alarming you won’t be able to relish the display of these characteristics as entertainment.

Political times have changed of course since August when the show became a hit in Edinburgh and Trump seemed no more than a ridiculous outsider. The show’s clearly been evolving ever since and the fluidity of its stand-up format should allow it to develop more as events unfold. Meanwhile, Simon Jay has turned himself into a very effective pastiche of a repellent Trump, complete with orange face, bouffant blonde hair and a stained suit. He’s the playing centre of the show, being accompanied occasionally only by a nerdy sidekick, whose task is to bring the tagline for yet another real day’s joke with him every time he appears.

Right from the start of the evening this Trump is trouble. Picking on as many women as possible to embarrass. Be prepared. (Top tip, do not sit in the first row at the far end of the room unless you want to be picked on.) He’s got no sensibilities whatsoever and, as you veer between laughter and discomfort, you begin to sense how peculiar it might be if you were in Trump’s presence for real. Deep resistance to even being asked to applaud is a possibility, particularly at first.

After extracting whatever fun he can from the women in the audience Jay’s Trump turns the high wattage of his attention to the members of the LGBT community, of which there were quite a number on US election night. They all enjoyed themselves with that. There was also enthusiastic engagement with those present from overseas. Not one of the Americans there had voted for him we found out.

Audience participation is at the heart of this show, which means it changes every time and some performances will inevitably be better than others, all depending on the wit of the audience. (That means you.) Going in with a question or two of calibre in mind will certainly help this show along its way. Simon Jay has a ready stream of repartee and invective at hand but the game here is generally best played as ping pong not solitaire. There is however, likely to come a time in the performance when ambivalence gives way to everyone in the room finding everything funny. Including a simple game but amusing game called Find the Bunny. (You’ll find out.)

There is a denouement of some surprise at the end. Suggesting you might like to wonder who exactly is the man behind the mask we know as The Real Donald Trump when he’s tucking his Melania up in bed for the night.

3 and a half stars

Review by Marian Kennedy

580,963 people signed a petition to ban Donald J. Trump from entering the UK. Yet he’s here in London in all his horrifying glory. Immerse yourself in Trump’s vision of the world before he blows it to kingdom come. Witness the way he works an audience up into a fervour, ask him all the burning questions and see what a world would be like if The Donald was president. From five-star writer and performer Simon Jay, this absurdist satire of the next US President is as demented, hysterical and disturbed as the man himself.

Extra date added 14th November 2016
http://www.kingsheadtheatre.com/