You might, not unreasonably, think that I’d had my fill of Glass Menageries, having seen three in the space of a month late last year but Tennessee Williams’ memory play is one I enjoy especially and am usually keen to see. And so it was with Giles Croft’s production of The Glass Menagerie for Nottingham Playhouse where he is Artistic Director, this play being the one that inspired him to become a director and now 40 years later, he feels ready to tackle for himself.
Another key factor in my decision was this theatre’s participation in the Ramps on the Moon project, helping to mainstream disability arts and culture through programming and increased opportunities, here taking the form of casting wheelchair user Amy Trigg as Laura, the young woman whose physical fragility is matched by her emotional wellbeing, smothered as she is by overbearing mother Amanda and abandoned by brother guilt-ridden Tom.
It’s a canny casting move, one which blisters with poignancy throughout in so many ways: the way in which her ‘disability’ is perceived by others but also by herself as she retreats into an increasingly hermetic world; the way in which this feeling of being trapped is mirrored by the physical reality of Tim Meacock’s wrought-iron fire escape that dominates the set design, through which Tom can easily effect his escape but which her chair could never traverse; the way the dance scene emphasises everything of which she dreams.
Chris New’s sensitive Tom and Susannah Harker’s stifling Amanda offer up persuasively strong work as the rest of this most intimate of families, her fussing and fixing difficult to watch as it provokes such vocal despair in her son and such distraught anguish in her daughter. But she also underscores this woman with an essential dignity that means she’ll never crumble, she’ll always be there picking up the pieces in the warmth and shadow of Mark Howland’s evocative lighting. Powerfully done.