I saw The Glass Menagerie in London a few weeks ago with some friends. I had already read the play by Tennessee Williams as few years ago, as part of my IB studies at school, so I was looking forward to seeing it onstage.
This was such a very good production – the costume, set, lighting, acting, sound, all of it! Williams was very specific in his stage directions about what a production of this show should look like (although he did have quite an over-the-top way of going about his descriptions). So, having studied the play in such detail before going to see this play, it made me particularly aware of the use of these production elements.
Firstly, the set was brilliantly designed, and well in-keeping with the stage directions in the text. I felt this was pretty important (and why I was so relieved to see the set); the stage directions are written to describe a set that allows the audience to be able to see all the rooms of the Wingfield’s house at once – so you can see all the characters whenever they are onstage. This production achieved this beautifully, with the lighting that was also cleverly designed to make the most of the poignant and dramatic moments that are scattered throughout the text. As a theatre-nerd, it made me very happy!
The performance itself was brilliant: there were only four actors, all of which gave performances that never gave me any reason not to believe in their characters. (Which I think is particularly impressive give how aware I felt throughout the show, being even more judgemental than usual because of my previous in-depth knowledge.) I especially thought Kate O’Flynn (Laura) gave a fantastic performance. All the characters are very different from one another, which was most definitely brought to this performance and made even more jarring by seeing it acted onstage.
What I liked most about this performance though was seeing the self-conscious theatrical moments performed. One of the most interesting aspects of this play for me is its references to the theatre world: the opening monologue acknowledges the production elements, such as lighting and sound, that go into a show. I loved it when I first read it a few years ago, and it was wonderfully performed too – the actor Michael Esper was very engaging when talking to the audience, and his introduction of Laura, with the non-naturalistic style of her entrance, was so so good! (I don’t want to give it away, so you’ll just have to trust me!) Actually, this was a common feature throughout the show: these non-naturalistic moments (including Joe’s monologues to the audience and slow-motion movements) that interrupted the mostly naturalistic, truthful acting of the play.
Going to see this production, I knew it was always going to be different theatre experience – watching a production of a text that I feel like I analysed to death and had previously learnt many of the lines made me think that I might be too into the analysis to enjoy myself. But actually, this wasn’t the case at all. In fact, quite the opposite! Having knowledge about the play allowed me to enjoy aspects that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed – and with such a beautiful production, I was more than grateful for this.