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Review: The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre

10 February, 2017 — By Howard Loxton

Kate O’Flynn in The Glass Menagerie. Photo: Johan Persson

at Duke of York’s Theatre

JOHN Tiffany’s acclaimed production, created for the American Repertory Theatre before playing on Broadway, was remounted for last year’s Edinburgh Festival and at last reaches the West End.

It has been worth the wait. Writer Tennessee Williams called it “a memory play”. It is what would-be writer Tom Wingfield remembers as he looks back a decade to the 1930s.

Designer Bob Crowley’s surreal fire escape climbing skywards out of the darkness is a reminder that memory is fallible. So too the reflection in the pool of black water on which his world seems to be floating. The furniture looks real enough as does the unicorn, star piece of shy sister Laura’s glass animal collection and when, quite literally reaching into memory, Michael Esper’s Tom brings his sister and mother Amanda to life, they are near perfect portrayals.

Kate O’Flynn’s timid Laura so lacks self-confidence that she’s playing truant from the secretarial classes she’s booked in for. She’s touchingly out of touch with reality. Her mother is desperate to find her a husband: she is always on at Tom to bring home a friend, a potential “gentleman caller” for Laura.

Cherry Jones is an amazing Amanda, capturing the gentility of her upbringing, a mix of fragile femininity and the determination that helped her raise children after being abandoned by her husband. When she floats in a long dress to greet the guy Tom invites home you realise self-delusion is something that she has always lived with. She is cloying, Tom needs to escape her as well as his pointless job in a warehouse, but you can’t help but like and even admire her.

Brian J Smith plays the eventual gentleman caller with all the charm and good looks you could ask for but he’s a man from the real world. As he and Laura recall high school, and Laura momentarily blossoms, the whole theatre feels it.

Fine performances all, in a production that captures the play’s spirit.

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