Theatre: People in glass houses
The Glass Menagerie Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Tuesday 20 January 1998
The lights come up on the narrator, Tom - Williams's own given name - at his typewriter, tapping out the play from his own guilt-fraught memories before he begins to speak its lines, the action throughout being clearly and visibly (thanks to Ace McCarron's clear but unobtrusive lighting work) framed by its author's mind's eye.
The delicately stylised mannerisms adopted by both Lois Baxter as Amanda, Tom's mother, and Monica Dolan as his pathologically timid sister Laura, lend each a faintly formal, emblematic air, adding to the sense of double consciousness, even amid the flesh-and-blood anguish underlying their destructive inter-relationships.
Perhaps the finest in a uniformly compelling clutch of performances comes from Baxter, who fully inhabits and expresses all the grotesque, tragic complexity of her faded, frightened ex-Southern belle, feeding on those famous fantasised memories of "gentlemen callers" queuing up in Blue Mountain. "A little woman of great but confused vitality" is Williams's own description, and Baxter has her to the life, often simultaneously making you want to strangle her and to weep in pity. She gives Amanda an almost heroic dignity, while also revealing a dark vein of comedy in her wilder extremes, an element in the text often neglected in favour of the prevailing gloom. Teale, however, brings it out with dexterity, having us laugh, too - though not in the least comfortably - at Laura's odder tics and idiosyncrasies, letting a chink of the outside world's harsh glare into the family's self- sealed universe.
Williams's emissary from that outside world - the Thirties world of a faltering but still potent American Dream - Laura's own long-awaited gentleman caller, Jim, is played with beautifully judged rude health by Matthew Pidgeon, striking the right balance between regular-guy crassness and genuine good nature. Dolan plays Laura herself as a quiveringly fragile figure - her evident consciousness of her own incapacities, and valiant efforts to overcome or conceal them, are what render the depiction so poignant. Sometimes she's just endearingly gauche; next moment, it's clear something far deeper and more disturbing is at work.
The power of Baxter's portrayal, meanwhile, channels directly into her dealings with both Tom and Laura, the heart-breaking, helplessly corrosive minutiae of the dynamics between them picked out with mutual subtlety and a rigorous absence of excess histrionics. Except, perhaps - if we're judging the show by its own scrupulous standards - for Alec Newman's Tom, who betrays an occasional touch of grandstanding. But maybe that's entirely in character - such are the questions the production leaves you chewing over days after seeing it.
To 7 Feb. Booking: 0131-229 9697.
Mountain goats miraculously survive avalanche in the Alps
Skyfall's Ben Whishaw confirmed for Freddie Mercury film
A cautionary tale for ambitious would-be authors
Life & Style blogs
- 1 Dear Sir Jimmy Savile: A comedian's words of valediction to the nation's trusted uncle
- 2 Gurdwaras-turned-food banks: Sikh temples are catering for rise in Britain’s hungry
- 3 Teenage girl convicted of robbery after taking pre-crime selfie wielding knife
- 4 Newly vegan Beyoncé wears fox fur to dine in meat free restaurant
- 5 'I'm experiencing austerity as well', says Princess Michael of Kent
£50000 - £55000 per annum + excellent benefits + bonus: Pro-Recruitment Group:...
£35000 - £44000 per annum + excellent company benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group:...
£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Manager - Tailor ...
£33000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Audit Senior - Birmingham ...