The Glass Menagerie
Rating: ★★★★ ½
Venue: Alexandra Palace
Cast: Geraldine Somerville, Kasper Hilton-Hille, Zacchaeus Kayode and Natalie Kimmerling 

Tom escapes a suffocating home life through cigarettes and long visits to the movies while his sister, Laura, withdraws into her records and collection of glass animals. But their mother, Amanda, harbours dreams for them far beyond their shabby apartment. When Tom brings home a potential suitor for Laura, Amanda seizes the opportunity to try and change their fortunes forever.

Tennessee Williams is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated American playwrights when it comes to current theatre, and his works are regularly adapted for current audiences, and The Glass Menagerie is one of his greatest plays, in my opinion. The play is semi-autobiographical, much like most of his work and he often takes a deeper look into the complex reality of relationships and humanity.

This production of The Glass Menagerie is directed by Atri Banerjee and runs from 22 May to 1 June at the Alexandra Palace Theatre (a co-presentation between this theatre, Rose Theatre and Belgrade Theatre). This iconic play is not one that needs an elaborate stage set so the dark and almost empty stage design by Rosanna Vize suits it well.

It examines the lives of the Wingfield's, a 1930s St Louis family through the son, Tom's, recollections.  Tom, played by Kasper Hilton-Hille, narrates the production giving us an insight into their family dynamic. His mother, Amanda (Geraldine Somerville) who was abandoned by an alcoholic husband years before, stifles her children with her ambitions for them. Hoping to find a suitable match for Laura and badgering Tom to stay in the security of his job at the shoe factory, Tom escapes through the movies.

His sister, Laura, played by Natalie Kimmerling, uses her glass animal collection and music as a means of escape. She captures Laura's shyness and vulnerability well, as she daydreams and frequently lives in her own world. It's a gentle performance, capturing her private moments when you realise how much she wants to be free of her shyness.

Kasper Hilton-Hille is fabulous as Tom. He mixes his anger about his situation with humour and the love and responsibility he feels for his sister. When Tom brings home a possible suitor for Laura, his mother uses this as an opportunity to matchmake. Enter Jim O'Connor, (Zacchaeus Kayode), an unwitting suitor. Jim, confident and chatty and Laura, shy and awkward. It's a great but ultimately sad scene as Laura rekindles a school girl crush only to discover Jim is unavailable. 

This production has some humour despite its subject matter so please don't think it's all doom and gloom. The play has been made to appeal to a more modern audience, while sticking to the source material as much as possible. The cast and their performances are the true heart of this adaptation.

You can book tickets to see The Glass Menagerie at Alexandra Palace, here.

Review by Ed

**photo credit: Marc Brenner**

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