The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

Performed in the Unicorn Theatre 15 - 18 November 2006

The latest production from the Abingdon Drama Club - The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams - is nowadays usually described as a play about a dysfunctional family. The success of this production lies in how strongly and, crucially, sympathetically each member of the family is played, so that what could otherwise be an emotionally grim evening is engaging as well as compelling.

The play opens with a soliloquy by Tom Wingfield, played with great ease and warmth by Michael Ward; Tom's resigned and witty commentary on life in depression-era St Louis with his overbearing, ambitious mother and reclusive sister immediately draws in the audience. But though Tom prepares us for a witch, a harridan, Colette Lardner-Browne's portrayal of Amanda Wingfield offers a more profound and complex character: a thwarted heroine, even, desperately fighting for her children's all too unpromising futures. And Liz Adams as her shy daughter pulls off with real distinction a difficult balancing act, for Laura is seriously sociopathic, physically disabled and given to self pity, but here we see also a girl of touching vulnerability and charm, with unexpected flashes of light-heartedness. The glass menagerie itself is a collection of tiny glass ornaments which Laura reclusively spends her time with. This production skilfully leaves it uncertain as to whether her occupation is a childish hobby or a sign of a disturbing mental weakness.

Philip Bower as "The Gentleman Caller" - a workmate of Tom's who, towards the end of the play, visits the family for dinner, and is, with absurd presumption, set up by Amanda as a possible husband for Laura - more than matches the high standards set by the rest of the cast, again by keeping the audience in two minds about his character. Is he bumptious and over-confident, or simply ambitious, straightforward and nice? Does he really have a fiancée, or is he suddenly panicked by the role of suitor in which he unexpectedly finds himself?

In the atmospheric and intimate auditorium of the Unicorn Theatre, the strength of the acting means that the audience is caught and held from the very first. And the music is beautifully chosen to complement the action.

Heather O'Donaghue - Oxford Times - 24/11/06

The Abingdon Drama Club truly excels itself in this superb interpretation of Tennessee Williams’ classic of 1930s America. This tale of dysfunctional family life and the pressures on an only son to look after his mother and sister in the absence of his father is thoroughly believable. Despite some wobbly Southern accents and a few lighting problems, the first-night performance was highly professional and completely enthralling. Liz Adams is particularly well cast as the painfully shy sister who drops out of business college because it makes her physically sick and whose only real hope for any kind of life is to find a husband. Tom, her brother, the frustrated poet doomed to work in a warehouse to support his womenfolk, is played with sensitivity and feeling by Michael Ward and his mother, the inimitable Amanda, played by Colette Lardner-Browne provides relief by supplying much of the play's humour.

The "gentleman caller" (Philip Bower) is wonderfully naïve and gentle and all looks set fair right up until the final denouément.

For an excellent evening’s entertainment in the stunning setting of the Unicorn Theatre’s 14th century Abbey Buildings, with attentive, friendly staff and generous refreshments (including free biscuits!), this play comes highly recommended.

Victoria Bentata - Daily Info - 16/11/06


Fri 12th, Sat 13th
& Thu 18th, Fri 19th,
Sat 20th January

Sat 13th, Sun 14th
& Sat 20th January

Unicorn Theatre




Play Readings
Tues 14th November
Tues 12th December
The Clubhouse