The Glass Menagerie
- Jonny Ensall
- 15 April 2010
The Glass Menagerie opens with an address from Tennessee Williams, masquerading as the play’s central character, Tom Wingfield. ‘I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion,’ he says, an idea that Shared Experience’s touring production has seized upon.
Director Polly Teale has amplified the illusory elements by using video projections of 1930s movies. However, when the inevitable pathos in the meeting between Wingfield’s shy sister Laura and a snappy gentleman caller plays out, the hurt of Williams’ ‘memory play’ is rendered with truthful coldness.
‘I think in the first half you have to gradually get used to the style which is quite expressionistic,’ says Imogen Stubbs, who plays Tom and Laura’s mother, Amanda. ‘But the scene with the gentleman caller, that is a naturalistic scene in an expressionist play. And I think that makes it pretty heartbreaking.’
‘It is something that fascinates me,’ says Stubbs, an RSC veteran, of her casting as the overbearing and unbalanced mother, ‘that line between tragedy and comedy. And also the really good parts for women tend to have that kind of complexity.’
Her presence in the play is one of its biggest draws, but some audience members have actually missed her. ‘The last matinee that we did, two different people complained to the theatre manager that they’d come to see me in the show and that I wasn’t in it … they watched me for over an hour and didn’t recognise me.’ It can only be taken as a sign that she’s mastered those southern vowels.
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 27 Apr–Sat 1 May