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The Glass Menagerie (Cheltenham)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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In the same vein that Danny Boyle described his opening ceremony – Paul Milton's interpretation of Tennessee Williams' classic The Glass Menagerie is 'a narrative set to music' and marks an exquisite return to producing in-house professional plays for the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham.

The Glass Menagerie is Williams’ iconic memory play, where Tom Wingfield reflects on his greatest achievement and biggest regret - escaping his overbearing mother and leaving behind his crippled sister. Tom describes how 'In memory everything seems to happen to music', and Williams words resonate in every sound throughout Milton's musical production.

An intake of breath echoed throughout the stalls as the curtain rose on Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith's outstanding set. Layer upon layer unfolded throughout the play to reveal “poetic imagination” and remarkable innovation - particularly the hanging diamonds, which shone under Michael E Hall's lighting with every touch of Laura's Glass Menagerie (a small collection of animal shaped glass ornaments).

However, the depth of the set meant that the apartment failed to provide any sense of claustrophobia - any sense that this family were living on top of each other - eluding more to Amanda's Southern Belle stately surroundings than her current cramped St Louis situation.

The portrait of the father hung over the stage and was used more as a comedic tool as opposed to a sinister reflection of that which never was. This directorial decision clearly informed the overall tone of the production, enabling comedic injection in scenes that could otherwise have been more sinister.

Tom's battle between self and responsibility was expertly executed by Hason Dixon. With quick transfer from dialogue to narration, we were offered an insight into the autobiographical nature of Williams work.

2point4 Children's Julia Hills attacked the role of Amanda Wingfield with vivaciousness. Her overbearing behaviour allowed for humour, though her desperation for her children's success could have been more demonstrative.

Gentleman Caller Jim O'Connor (Robert Fawsitt) punched the air with triumph as he described his ambition to sister Laura (Emmy Sainsbury) - this physical manifestation of the need to reach for and achieve the American Dream was a glorious juxtaposition to Laura's inability to desire and aspire. The moment captured the essence of this memory play with its overtly-perfect symbolism.

Let's hope that this, the Everyman’s first self-produced production in over 15 years, is one of many more top-quality shows from the Cheltenham Theatre.

The Glass Menagerie runs at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, until Saturday 16 June.


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