The Glass Menagerie Review

Festival Theatre, Malvern – until 30th March 2024

Reviewed by Courie Amado Juneau


Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, written in 1944, was the play that turned him into a major force to be reckoned with. It’s an interesting work which tells the story of the Wingfield’s, a family who live within financial constraints that the matriarch is not used to or reconciled with. Her constant interfering in her children’s lives (to avoid the situation perpetuating) causes more than a little friction and heartache.

Amanda Wingfield, a former southern belle whose star has faded after a misjudged union (we’ve all been there – love is, after all, blind), was wrought in sparkling form by Geraldine Somerville. I loved the way she pivoted from old school charm and reverie to explosions of anger, disappointment and frustration – in an intense performance that was at once both quiet and yet turned up to full blast.

Kasper Hilton-Hille played Tom (Amanda’s son). A poetic soul who is suffocated by his home life (specifically living under his mother’s tyrannical thumb) but also an uninspiring job in a factory. Kasper squeezed every ounce of emotion off the page, giving us a character who we totally empathised with and ended up liking enormously in a richly nuanced portrayal.

Laura (Amanda’s daughter) is socially awkward and she increasingly takes comfort in the private refuge of her own crystaline world – the glass menagerie of the title. Like the small glass unicorn that features prominently, she is unique and fragile. Natalie Kimmerling gave us a beautiful reading, showing great range from incredible vulnerability to wonderfully joyous. The superb use of music to symbolise various states like retreating into a cocoon (headphones on) and dance to symbolise finally cracking open her protective shell was particularly effective throughout. Natalie was simply sensational in a performance that was full of motion and emotion.

Zacchaeus Kayode played former star of the high school Jim O’Connor whose athleticism and great voice had caught Laura’s attention years before. A charming, charismatic portrayal that was creditably subtle showed a real understanding of character that does this young actor much justice and rounds out a fine cast.

With wonderful use of light (including candles) allowing a palette of shifting emotions, an interesting circular stage evoking (to me) the cyclic drudgery of life or perhaps the protagonists endless spiral downward emotionally and music like a movie soundtrack setting the mood perfectly the production team should feel justifiably proud of the world they created.

The “One Moment In Time” dance (between Laura and Jim) was the absolute highlight for me. It was the romance I’d been longing for. Just how I remember it is supposed to feel in real life. If only! If this had been on TV I’d have rewound it numerous times.

This play is richly nuanced with many universal echoes that resonate loudly within us. I found myself sitting in my seat at the conclusion wondering just what I had seen. It seemed that I had added as many layers to the play from my own experience as there were already on stage. I could quite happily see this masterpiece again and again and I urge you all to catch it while you can.