Theatre: People in glass houses

The Glass Menagerie Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

There's nothing covert about the autobiographical elements in Tennessee Williams's haunting chamber piece, and guest director Polly Teale - visiting from Shared Experience - plays them fruitfully to the fore in this richly satisfying, densely nuanced new production.

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.

News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there