It has been a vintage year for Tennessee Williams. His early Spring Storm revived in a stunning production at the Royal & Derngate Northampton and then the National Theatre and now his first major commercial success receives a touching revival at the Young Vic.
It is an immensely personal show, perhaps Williams’s most autobiographical, echoing the authors own family struggles.
Narrator Tom, a not too distant echo of the playwright, draws memories out of his life, a tale of an insensitive mother and a daughter as fragile as the glass animals she collects. At times it is painful to watch but always gripping.
Director Joe Jill-Gibbins has chosen to play up the dream like qualities of the piece, a overtly theatrical set and lighting helping to distance any thought of realism. The dream like state is further enhanced by Dario Marianelli’s evocative score, played live by an accomplished band. It all comes together to create a sense that we are voyeurs into a young man’s mind, rather than the intense realism prevalent in other Williams works.
As Tom Leo Bill gives a strong performance as a young writer desperate to escape the confines of home for the freedom of the pen. That his desire to spread his wings is tempered by his devotion to his sister adds much to the dramatic tension. Acting honors of the evening however must go to Sinead Matthews as the fragile Sister Laura. Her brief moments of hope soon fall back into pain and distress.
The staging does take some getting used to and the pace sometimes falters, however this is a gripping production of one of Williams’ most heart felt pieces.
Photo: Sinead Matthews in The Glass Menagerie, photo by Simon Annand