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The Timeless Tennessee Williams

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The Bolton Octagon's production of  The Glass Menagerie opens tonight and it remains one of Tennessee Williams most popular productions. Like many theatregoers I'm of the opinion that even at half strength - this playwright is one of the best and I am always first in the queue when one of his plays are staged.

So what is it about this complex writer that leaves us wanting more? I have now seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof three times, Suddenly Last Summer twice, The Glass Menagerie - four times and Vieux Carre and Night of the Iguana. Each time I enter the auditorium and settle in - I expect the heat to be barmy and the females to be strong minded, yet multifaceted. More often than not, your heart is stamped on by the end of a Williams play as he toys with your emotions and resists linear happy endings.

Of course Blanche DuBois is one of the most celebrated of his characters and anyone who was lucky enough to see Rachel Weisz play this fascinating, poignant, yet infuriating creature at the Donmar was reminded of how well this man can write. It's a rich role and not always played to perfection. But on this occasion, she was sublime. The Liverpool Playhouse also staged a fine production recently - that lives in the memory long after the lights go down.

Then there's Cat and the glorious revival by Debbie Allen featuring a ferocious James Earl Jones as the iconic Big Daddy. As for the beautiful The Glass Menagerie - I have seen Imogen Stubbs bring so much to the role of Amanda Wingfield that I waited with bated breath to see what she did with Orpheus Descending. I left, sadly disappointed. A special mention must go to Jessica Lange who always played the role superbly in the West End a few years ago. I can't help but think she still uses this role to inform her work in the hit show American Horror Story.

As well as finely tuned characters, you can expect secrets, lies, repression, explorations of sexuality, gender and lost love. With this current recession never seeming to let up, audiences want familiarity to comfort them. With Tennessee Williams you get the familiar but cooked on a slow burning heat, so that it remains fresh and succulent.

The Glass Menagerie is at the Bolton Octagon from 27 March - 20 April.


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