5 December 2010

The Glass Menagerie at the Young Vic

This was my first time at the Young Vic, apart from a visit to the popular bar after another event, so I did not know what to expect from the theatre.

I thought I knew what to expect from the play, Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie but that proved to be wrong.

The original flyer claimed that the play was "seriously funny" and the Culture Show implied that it was about the relationship between a mother and her son but neither of these is that true.

Let's start with the theatre. The layout is unusual, in my limited experience of such things. The stage is a square with bench seating on two sides. The construction is modern and metal. The only comparable layout I know is the Rose Theatre in Kingston but this is on a larger scale and is refreshingly stark.

The Glass Menagerie tells the tale of an American family in the aftermath of the Great Depression when times are tight and the world is changing fast.

The family consists of an organised mother, a drunkard son in a dead-end job and a crippled daughter who stays at home and whose only interest is her collection of glass animals.

The father is absent physically but he still casts a shadow over the family through his picture on the wall and several references are made to his drunkenness and his wanderings.

The scene is set with the family struggling to survive with few prospects for the future. Tales are told of happier days, when the mother was young, and she relies on these tales to bring hope for the future. Many of these hopes are foisted in her daughter who, because of her disability and shyness, does not have the men callers that her mother wants and expects.

Then her brother brings a colleague home and the play's purpose becomes clear as we witness the evening and, through that, get more of a view of morals and manners of that time.

So, not very funny and not really about the son. What it is though, is a tense emotional drama that grabs you quickly and refuses to let you go even after the final curtain.

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