The Glass Menagerie | La BoiteLeft – Kathryn Marquet. Cover – Julian Curtis, Jason Klarwein and Helen Howard. Photos – Dylan Evans

Tennessee Williams’ classic, The Glass Menagerie, is La Boite’s current offering. This ‘memory play’ (supposedly the most autobiographical of Williams’ earlier works) invites us into the life and home of the Wingfields. It is there we witness the tug of war of tensions between Tom Wingfield (the narrator), his mother Amanda and his sister Laura. The domineering and nagging Amanda wants her children to be happy and successful, which really boils down to knowing that Laura will be taken care of. Amanda pressures Tom to find a suitor for Laura. Tom obliges his mother but desperately longs to leave the family home to pursue his own dreams. 

Perhaps your own memory of The Glass Menagerie will be something distant, faint and relegated to your adolescent years as one of the many texts that belong to the ‘cannon’ of literature you studied in high school. If that is so, then what David Berthold’s interpretation of the play will do for you is remind you of the richness of Williams’ prose, while bringing to life with humour and sensitivity the heart of each of the characters and their journey.    

Rather than setting the play in its original era of the late 30’s, Berthold has shifted the time to the 70’s, perhaps as a way for the piece to resonate more with a 21st century audience. This works aesthetically for the performance and emphasises the ‘kitch-ness’ within some of the more old fashioned notions that are presented through the characters. It also enhances the expressionistic and more melodramatic moments in the performance and adds to the entertainment and humour factor.

Strong and engaging performances were given by all. Jason Klarwein as Tom Wingfield connects with the audience immediately and skilfully delivers the sharp and thought provoking prose that trickles so deliciously through the narration. Helen Howard is a delight and an inspiration to watch as the overbearing, neurotic Amanda Wingfield. Howard brings an enigmatic quality to the role and wonderfully embodies the soul of Amanda. It’s hard not to be drawn to only watch her performance during much of the play.  Kathryn Marquet brings the quiet and timid Laura Wingfield to life. The scene between Laura and the Gentleman Caller, Julian Curtis, is a joy to watch as Marquet breathed the hopes and dreams of Laura’s inner being to the surface inch by inch. Julian Curtis’ brief time on stage is also equal in reach to the rest of the ensemble’s performances. 

The music composition and sound design by Gordon Hamilton is a creative blend of nostalgia and whimsy. It echoes back and forth from the natural to the metallic hues and altered timbres of voices and music channelled through old fashioned radios and telephone lines. Designer Penny Challen’s work is playful and opens up the space without overtaking it, especially considering the much, much larger than life backdrop and homage to the father. He is only ever talked about and his pop art-like presence (full of charm and cheekiness) watches over the family and the theatre, which elevates his status in some way as the fifth character in the play.                   

There is much to delight in, in Berthold’s rendition of The Glass Menagerie. Although the struggles and inner turmoil of each of these characters can so easily bring a heavy presence to the production (something I have seen in other professional performances), Berthold’s interpretation revels in their neuroses without mocking them. This La Boite production is a fantastic celebration of Williams’ classic work and shares with warmth, humour and a kind of dreamy honesty that idea of reality that Tom frames so poetically in the opening lines of the play, “truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”

La Boite presents
The Glass Menagerie
by Tennessee Williams

Director David Berthold

Venue: Roundhouse Theatre | Level 5, The Works, 6-8 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove QLD
Dates: 3 - 31 Aug 2013
Tickets: from $25

Most read Brisbane reviews

At this moment in our cultural history, as Australia emerges gradually from the restrictions...