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Review: The Glass Menagerie, at Arcola Theatre

06 June, 2019 — By Angela Cobbinah

Naima Swaleh and Michael Abubakar in The Glass Menagerie. Photo: Idil Sukan

A WEALTHY class of black folk lived in the Southern states during the Jim Crow era, so Femi Elufowoju Jr’s decision to place a black family at the centre of the Tennessee Williams classic is not as improbable as it may at first appear.

Aside from deepening our understanding of the universality of the human condition, it casts light on a little known aspect of African American history.

It is 1937 and mother from hell Amanda Wingfield (Lesley Ewen) is every bit the Southern belle as she harks back to the days when she received “gentlemen callers”, some of them Mississippi planters, and attended cotillions, the debutant balls that were equally in vogue among moneyed whites and blacks.

But with an awol husband, she has fallen on hard times and lives her dreams through her two children.

Son Tom (Michael Abubakar), however, longing for escape from his hum drum existence, resists her attempts to control him, while fragile, excessively shy daughter Laura (Naima Swaleh) spends her time playing with animal figurines, the glass menagerie of the title.

When Jim O’Connor (Charlie Maher) arrives for dinner, Amanda lays on a lavish welcome, all reason drowned out by the sound of potential wedding bells for her daughter. It can only end in tears.

Well acted all round, the retention of the guest’s Irish origins is the only unconvincing note in this touching re-interpretation.

Until July 13
020 7503 1646

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