The Glass Menagerie

By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Ellen McDougall
Presented by Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse and West Yorkshire Playhouse
Liverpool Playhouse
Till 31st October 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

What struck me most, and I have seen this play before several years ago at the Playhouse, was how desperately lonely and isolated from the outside world the three members of the Wingfield family are, in this masterpiece of human failings by Tennessee Williams, set in St Louis in 1944.

Most estranged from 'real life' is Laura (Erin Doherty), who I would describe as a wounded creature, having to contend with being 'crippled' - Williams' terminology - and the way her disability affects her ability to socialise with other people on any level.

She lives in her own world, regularly looking into a small glass menagerie.

Her situation is not helped by her overbearing and bully-like mother, Amanda (Greta Scacchi), who lives constantly in the past, recalling her days as a Southern Belle.

Her mission in life is to see her daughter hook up with a prospective marriage partner, however futile that aim seems, given Laura'a predicament.

She enlists her son Tom (Tom Mothersdale) to find her someone from his workplace to fill this role, by inviting him round to their apartment to meet Laura.

Tom is also the narrator at the beginning of both acts. In the preface to the first act he remarks that "the play is not realistic." How far from the truth that is!

One of the most poignant scenes occurs shortly after Tom's workmate and former fellow student of Laura at High School, Jim (Eric Kofi Abrefa), makes a visit.

Laura, made to dress up for the occasion by her mother, and desperately self conscious of her unnatural appearance in a pretty dress, turns to the wall and presses her hands against it with her head angled towards the floor. She remains in that stance, while the other three characters converse, for ten minutes or so. I was mesmerised in watching her deep well of despair. No words needed to be expressed about her heartfelt anguish about what was taking place around her.

The stage set reflects the austere nature of the narrative of the play. Basically the apartment is depicted as a big black box with no furniture, except for a couple of floor lamps.

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