Review: The Glass Menagerie

Six-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams makes her West End debut in The Duke of York’s Theatre’s revival of the Tennessee Williams’ classic, The Glass Menagerie.

Amy Adams in Glass Menagerie program

In Jeremy Herrin’s take on the classic 1944 play, Adams takes on the role of the overbearing mother and Southern belle Amanda Wingfield, a role that has been previously played by the likes of Jessica Lange and Sally Field.

Upon originally hearing that Adams was cast as matriarch Amanda, many (including myself) thought that she might be too young to play the role at just 47, that which has traditionally been taken on by slightly older actresses in their 50s and 60s. However, whilst indeed, Adams brought a sense of youthfulness to Amanda, this was not at all a bad thing and almost felt like it gave her character a new lease of life. Adams’ performance is a particularly forgiving portrayal, showing her as less of an overbearing monster and more so as a naive single mother desperately clinging onto her youth.

Lizzie Annis steals the show as the shy but enduring Laura Wingfield, who collects little glass animals as a hobby and is pestered by her mother to find herself a "gentleman caller". In arguably one of the best scenes in the play, we see Laura dance around the stage with her former school crush, Jim O'Connor (played by Victor Alli), who she later finds out is engaged to another woman.

Interestingly in this production, the role of Tom is split between two actors (an older and younger version) despite the character usually only being played by one actor. This was a bold decision that I’m not sure was entirely effective. For most of the play, we see the older version of Tom wandering around the stage, seemingly waiting for his next part of the narration. The dual role almost seems to take away from the character of Tom, leaving us with two somewhat underused, lacklustre performances, despite Tom being one of the play’s main characters.

The set, designed by Vicki Mortimer, features record players, old lamps and cabinets and of course, that famous glass menagerie. The menagerie is the focal point of the stage; however, I did hear someone refer to it as resembling a vending machine, which is something I couldn’t get out of my head for the duration of the play. There was also a projector with visuals playing above the stage which seemed to shatter the nostalgic facade and didn’t seem to add much to the production.

The play itself is a wonderful retelling of a much-loved play and witnessing Adams perform in person is reason enough alone to go and see it.

Have you seen The Glass Menagerie? Let us know what you thought in the comments!

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