The Glass Menagerie @ King's Theatre

A new version of a Tennessee Williams classic comes to the Edinburgh International Festival

Review by Stephanie Green | 15 Aug 2016

The European premiere of a Broadway production directed by John Tiffany, this new interpretation of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie is a triumph.

Cherry Jones is outstanding as southern belle Amanda Wingfield, who's unaware that she is suffocating her son, Tom, and stunting her physically and emotionally crippled daughter, Laura, with her intense worrying over their future. Often portrayed as domineering, Cherry Jones stresses Amanda’s neediness, disguised with a brave sense of humour (she describes her desertion by her telephone salesman husband as his falling in love with ‘long distance’). But as she retreats into nostalgic memories of her many ‘gentleman callers’, she ensures that Laura’s chance to build self-confidence will shrivel.

Despite Laura’s appearance and later disappearance through the back of a sofa, no doubt Harry Potter-inspired, and a too-dominant fire escape suggesting the need for a way out, this production avoids whimsy, balancing the poetic text and symbolism with the actors’ emphasis on interpreting the deeply humane psychological understanding of the play.

The great tragedy of this play is that both son and daughter really love their mother – hence the power of her emotional manipulation. Michael Esper (Tom) beautifully brings out his character's ambivalent feelings, with a wry smile as the reminiscing narrator, resting his head on his mother’s shoulder as they contemplate the night sky. With an affecting, cracked voice, Kate O’Flynn (Laura) reveals a surprising strength when her illusory world is shattered by her gentleman caller, played sympathetically by Seth Numrich, his bonhomie masking his own insecurity and shallow belief in the American dream.

The Glass MenagerieKing's Theatre, 7-20 Aug, 7.30pm (except 9 & 16); 19 Aug 2.30pm; 21 Aug 1pm & 6pm; £14-38 (Fees apply)