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theatre review: the glass menagerie

For his last show as the Artistic Director of State Theatre Company of SA, Adam Cook has selected a well-known and much loved author. Tennessee Williams once described The Glass Menagerie as the saddest play he’d ever written. To depict that kind of emotion on the stage as a farewell would be a stunning departure, but Cook doesn’t quite reach the mark.

He does, however, present an honest and delicate portrayal of the Wingfield family: the aged Southern belle Amanda (Deidre Rubenstein), son Tom (Anthony Gooley), and daughter Laura (Kate Cheel), a crippled young woman who is also cripplingly shy. Amanda’s memories of being surrounded by suitors in her youth make her fret over Laura’s loneliness, leading to the arrival of a Gentleman Caller (Nic English).

Southern accents intact, the actors balance the humour and sadness of the play well. Cheel portrays Laura’s vulnerability nicely, offsetting Gooley’s tangible frustration, while Rubenstein and English both exploit the comedy within their roles.

The audience is told from the start that this is a play about memory, a theme which is nicely underscored by Victoria Lamb’s set. The windows, doors and curtains that make up the family home descend on wires following the opening monologue, accompanied by Stuart Day’s reflective score. This serves to create the impression of a time and a story coming together and then unfolding for the audience.

In spite of all this, the production lacks real intrigue or emotion. For Williams, the autobiographical aspects of the piece must have created much of the pain he associated with this play, for it isn’t particularly evident in this production. Laura’s isolation is more acknowledged than felt by the audience, and it is this disconnection from the play’s emotion which stops the production from being truly successful. Yes, it is visually pleasing and well-acted, but it is not as gripping and tragic as it should be.

Following the performance was an event held by State Theatre aimed at under-30 attendees. Red Carpet events are held after select performances during the season and feature themed decorations and drinks. Aside from the pleasure which is always gained being in a room filled with young arts lovers, these parties are always lively and fun.  The next event will be on July 20 for Pinocchio.

The Glass Menagerie plays until 26 May at the Dunstan Playhouse. Tickets from $29 at Bass.

(Photo credit: Matt Nettheim.)

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