Melbourne, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2014

The Glass Menagerie, MFF 2014

0 Comments 01 October 2014

A play that easily transcends time, The Glass Menagerie focuses on ever-present issues like the constant war between dreams and duties, absent family members and societal pressures. It pays tribute to the cyclical nature of life and society, broken only by the presence of Tom, both a character and an omniscient narrator.

Tom introduces us to the situation: his mother, Amanda – still scarred by her husband’s abandonment, and desperately holding on to all she can – and his sister, Laura – uncomfortable in social situations, quiet and living in her own imaginary world. Tom is an aspiring writer stuck in a dead-end job to support his family. His mother worries about Tom leaving and Laura growing old alone. Laura keeps her head down and tries to maintain the peace. When a gentleman caller comes into the picture, he brings with him hope – and the family dynamic slowly begins to shift.

Tom (played by Nicholas Denton), is a steady guide throughout the play, moving easily between character and narrator. His ease and comfort with the text welcomes the audience into his world of memory. His mother, Amanda, (played by Julie Nihill) finds an even balance between nagging and launching into spiels about her past. Julie Nihill presentation of Amanda is done without judgment or caricature, evoking both amusement and pity.

Laura (played by Lucy Moir), on the other hand, is not the force of nature her mother is, instead preferring to spend time with her menagerie of glass animals. Quiet and shy, she carries herself as she herself were made of glass – with a strong conviction that one could see right through her. Later, the introduction of a gentleman caller (played by Jordan Fraser-Trumble) brings out more depth in her character, and the audience clearly sees her inner struggle and fear. The gentleman caller is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Laura – loud, confident and willing to take risks. He carries himself strongly and is another larger than life character, bringing a presence almost too big for the room. He is the instigator for change, but as quickly as change begins, it is taken away. Suddenly, much smaller in character and stumbling over words, he retreats – leaving in his wake a family seemingly more broken than before.

Musical accompaniment through the show was a nice touch – seemingly unnecessary at points as the presence of the musicians took up space on an already small stage. While the performances were incredibly strong and very believable, the choice to mime some props and use others was sometimes distracting and broke from the realism in the rest of the performance.

Overall, The Glass Menagerie was a delight to watch, with a talented cast and musical team. The small set created a tangible sense of intimacy between the characters – as well as between Tom and the audience, inviting us into a world not to different from our own.

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