Play by Tennessee Williams. The Glass Menagerie is set in a 1930's St Louis slum, where a crippled girl lives with her family, her collection of glass animals... and her memories.
The mother, Amanda Wingfield, is a little woman of great but confused vitality, who clings frantically to another time and place. Having failed to establish contact with reality, she continues to live vitally in her illusions. Her daughter, Laura Wingfield, has been left crippled by a childhood illness, with one leg shorter than the other, and held in a brace. Stemming from this, Laura's separation increases till she is like a piece of her own glass collection, too exquisitely fragile to move from the shelf. Amanda's son, Tom Wingfield, is the Narrator of the play. He is a poet with a job in a warehouse. His nature is not remorseless, but to escape from a trap he has to act without pity. Into this family comes the 'gentleman caller', Jim O'Connor - a nice, ordinary, young man.
The Glass Menagerie - Original West End Production 1948
Opened 28 July 1948, Closed 30 October 1948 at the Haymarket Theatre
The cast featured Helen Hayes (in her West End debut) as 'Amanda Wingfield', Frances Heflin as 'Laura Wingfield', Phil Brown as 'Tom Wingfield' and Hugh McDermott as 'Gentleman Caller'. Directed by John Gielgud.
The Glass Menagerie - 1st West End Revival 1965
Opened 1 December 1965, Closed 8 January 1966 at the Haymarket Theatre
The cast featured Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as 'Amanda Wingfield', Anna Massey as 'Laura Wingfield', Ian McShane as 'Tom Wingfield' and George Baker as 'Gentleman Caller'. Directed by Vivian Matalon with sets by Brian Curragh and costumes by Dee Kelly.
The Glass Menagerie - London Revival 1977
Previewed 3 June 1977, Opened 13 June 1977, Closed 13 August 1977 at the Shaw Theatre
The cast featured Maxine Audley as 'Amanda Wingfield', Connie Booth as 'Laura Wingfield', James Aubrey as 'Tom Wingfield' and Angus MacInnes as 'Gentleman Caller'. Directed by Jonathan Lynn with designs by Saul Radomsky. The Dolphin Theatre Company present the Cambridge Theatre Company production.
The Glass Menagerie - 2nd West End Revival 1995 / 1996
Previewed 7 September 1995, Opened 13 September 1995, Closed 5 November 1995 at the Donmar Warehouse
Previewed 7 December 1995, Opened 11 December 1995, Closed 16 March 1996 at the Comedy Theatre (now named Harold Pinter Theatre)
The cast featured Zoe Wanamaker as 'Amanda Wingfield', Claire Skinner as 'Laura Wingfield', Ben Chaplin as 'Tom Wingfield' and Mark Dexter as 'Gentleman Caller'. Directed by Sam Mendes with designs by Rob Howell. When this production transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre, Ben Walden took over as 'Tom Wingfield'.
The Glass Menagerie - 3rd West End Revival 2007
Previewed 31 January 2007, Opened 13 February 2007, Closed 19 May 2007 at the Apollo Theatre
The cast features Jessica Lange as 'Amanda Wingfield', Amanda Hale as 'Laura Wingfield', Ed Stoppard as 'Tom Wingfield' and Mark Umbers as 'Jim O'Connor', the Gentleman Caller. Directed by Rupert Goold with designs by Matthew Wright.
"Everyone in The Glass Menagerie feels stifled and imprisoned, a point Rupert Goold's superbly atmospheric revival underlines in the design, which makes a prison of the shabby apartment, oppressively enclosed by a fire escape and deprived of light... The climatic candlelit scene almost breaks your heart... When Jim leaves, and Laura blows out the candles, it is as if all the light in her life has gone out for ever." The Mail on Sunday
"In looks, style and years, Jessica Lange would seem a natural for Amanda Wingfield, Tennessee Williams's first fading Southern belle in reduced circumstances. However, when Lange played the self-deluding, domineering mother on Broadway, reviews were mixed. On the evidence of Rupert Goold's production, familiarity hasn't provided her with more of a handle on it. Seemingly uncertain as to her approach, Lange sort of sidles up to the part, trying it this way and that, and thus appears awkward. She doesn't move so much as position herself, and her accent, surprisingly for an American, veers across at least two seaboards... Fortunately, vulnerability is amply supplied by Amanda Hale's gentle turn as Laura, the damaged, chronically shy daughter, based on Williams's schizophrenic sister Rose. The play has more than just this autobiographical tinge to it, and as the son, Tom/Tennessee, who dreams of breaking free, Ed Stoppard broods self-effacingly from the sidelines. But it is Mark Umbers, as Laura's gentleman caller, who sets the thing alight. Handsome and in command of his swaggering yet disappointed character, he is the most memorable thing about this cramped, self-conscious production." The Sunday Times
"Miss Lange happens to have had some stage experience, but not enough, it became clear, to pull off a part that would have proved taxing for even the most dedicated of stage actresses... At 57, she is, however, about the right age to play the fading beauty in Tennessee Williams's steamy old Depression-era potboiler set in St Louis, Missouri. She retains an unmistakable air of sexual allure, and, with her fine high cheekbones and auburn perm, she certainly looks the part of Amanda Wingfield, the fearsome matriarch struggling single-handedly to keep her two dysfunctional children, Tom and Laura, on the straight and narrow. Projecting the part comes less easily to her. In the opening scenes on the first night she seemed all but inaudible. She is required to dominate not only her family but also the stage, but at times she seemed to be all but consumed by Matthew Wright's enormous, grandiose set... One's eyes kept falling on Amanda Hale's painfully shy, awkward Laura and Ed Stoppard's sensitive, brow-beaten Tom. With Miss Lange, however, all three actors seemed to be working in vacuums, independently of the others. There was no chemistry between the three of them... Just as I was beginning to abandon all hope, Laura's 'gennel-man' caller in the form of Mark Umbers came tapping at the door to the Wingfields' basement and with it, finally, the production built up a head of steam." The Sunday Telegraph
The Glass Menagerie in London at the Apollo Theatre previewed from 31 January 2007, opened on 13 February 2007 and closed on 19 May 2007
The Glass Menagerie - 4th West End Revival 2017
Previewed 26 January 2017, Opened 2 February 2017, Closed 29 April 2017 at the Duke of York's Theatre
John Tiffany's acclaimed 2013 Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie in London starring Cherry Jones for a strictly limited run
The cast features Cherry Jones as the mother 'Amanda Wingfield', Michael Esper as the son 'Tom Wingfield', Kate O'Flynn as the daughter 'Laura Wingfield' and Brian J. Smith as the gentleman caller 'Jim O'Connor'. Directed by John Tiffany with designs by Bob Crowley, lighting by Natasha Katz and sound by Paul Arditti. Both Cherry Jones and Brian J. Smith are reprising their roles from the original 2013 Broadway staging.
When this production opened here at the Duke of York's Theatre in February 2017, Henry Hitchings in The London Evening Standard highlighted that "Cherry Jones, one of the most revered stars of American theatre, makes an overdue and spellbinding West End debut in this finely balanced revival of Tennessee Williams’s breakthrough play — a dreamlike drama of memory, failure and illusion, which here feels carefully rooted in its Thirties setting." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph explained that, "although it's often revived, John Tiffany's production casts a greater, more shiver-making spell than most... American stage-star Cherry Jones, making her West End debut, is perfect as Amanda." Dominic Maxwell in the Times commented "John Tiffany's revival was a hit on Broadway in 2013 then at the Edinburgh International Festival last summer. Now starting a stint in the West End, it casts a potent spell again." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times said that John Tiffany's "staging is as delicately wrought as one of Laura's glass animals and, when it reaches breaking point, quite shattering. Beautifully played, it has at its centre a revelatory performance from Cherry Jones." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail described how "American actress Cherry Jones gives a fine turn as Amanda Wingfield... There is always some bleak humour to be had in this 1944 play, but playwright Tennessee Williams still leaves you with an unremitting sense of misery... yet this is a strong rendition of the play," adding that "Kate O'Flynn's Laura is suitably hesitant and physically lame" and "Brian J. Smith is charming as Jim, the gentleman caller." Neil Norman in the Daily Express thought that, "if the first half takes a little time to warm up, the production takes flight after the interval when Jim slowly draws Laura out of her shell and inadvertently offers her hope for happiness. This long scene is worth the price of admission alone as Brian J Smith and Kate O’Flynnconvey an aching tenderness and mutual generosity that only makes the conclusion more poignant."
John Tiffany's revival was originally staged on Broadway for a five month season at the Booth Theatre from September 2013 through to February 2014. John Tiffany's West End credits include JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre, the musical Once at the Phoenix Theatre in 2013 and the play Let The Right One In at the Apollo Theatre in 2014. Tennessee Williams' other plays recently seen on stage in London's West End include Marianne Elliott's revival of Sweet Bird of Youth starring Kim Cattrall at the Old Vic Theatre in 2013, Debbie Allen's revival Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad at the Novello Theatre in 2009, Adrian Noble's revival of Summer and Smoke starring Rosamund Pike and Chris Carmack at the Apollo Theatre in 2006, Anthony Page's revival The Night Of The Iguana starring Woody Harrelson at the Lyric Theatre in 2005 and Michael Grandage's revival of Suddenly Last Summer starring Dame Diana Rigg at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2004.
Tennessee Williams on The Glass Menagerie: "The idea for The Glass Menagerie came very slowly - I think I worked on The Glass Menagerie longer than any other play. I didn't think it would be produced. I wasn't writing it for that purpose. I wrote it first as a short story called 'Portrait of a Girl in Glass', which is, I believe, one of my best stories. I guess The Glass Menagerie grew out of the intense emotions I felt seeing my sister's mind begin to go... We were in Chicago for three and a half months with The Glass Menagerie. We opened in December 1944, and played until mid-March... Menagerie got to New York in 1945. It was sold out three and a half months before it opened. People would stop off in New York to see it because they knew it was a new kind of theatre."
"John Tiffany astounds again with this gripping revival of Tennessee Williams' breakthrough play. Williams' autobiographical hero is aspiring writer Tom whose meagre earnings from a shoe factory job are all that are keeping his ageing Southern belle mother Amanda and agonisingly shy sister Laura from the streets of 1930s St Louis... Tom tells his story like a sorcerer. 'Yes I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve,' he says, before conjuring the characters that haunt his memory, including Laura who appears through the upholstery of the dingy flat's sofa as if the piece of furniture had given birth to her. Poor Laura. She is burdened as much by a defective leg that gave her crippling shyness and a limp as she is by her mother's determination to see her married. Amanda is intent on seeing it all done in the manner of old-school, Southern etiquette. So Tom invites a 'gentleman caller' to dinner, his co-worker Jim. In this achingly moving scene, Laura's inhibitions melt under Jim's chivalrous, flirtatious flattery and Tiffany's production rises to its full dramatic height - as tall as the towering fire escape of Bob Crowley's design. It's a slow burn of a play. But the climax is utterly spellbinding." The London Metro
"In Tennessee Williams’s breakthrough memory play, characters sink into their own helplessness. This achingly tender version, reaching London after New York and Edinburgh, pulls you into their desolation: the rooms in the Wingfields’ apartment are like small islands, lapped by dark waters, on which the family seems marooned... Desperation makes Cherry Jones’s incorrigible mother a monster to her children, all fuss, florid gestures and foghorn anxiety. Her quiet disappointment is as terrible as her overscaled rage... Kate O’Flynn is superb as the withdrawn daughter, Laura: a fluting voice, a stillness amid family rows — and a transfixingly kind encounter, sliding into distress, with Brian J Smith’s gentleman caller. Heartbreaking." The Sunday Times
"John Tiffany's production emphasises the artifice of a play in which, as Tom states, truth appears 'in the pleasant disguise of illusion'. Too often this approach is contrived and distracting. Moreover, the glass menagerie itself is reduced in Bob Crowley's spare design to a single horse. Nevertheless, the pain and the humour of Williams's writing shine through by dint of three splendid performances. Broadway star Cherry Jones is magnificent as Amanda, her desperation to see her children settled given new urgency as she struggles to hide an arm in the first throes of Parkinson's. The young British actress Kate O'Flynn, fitting seamlessly alongside her American partners, is deeply moving as Laura and Brian J Smith is the picture of flustered decency as Jim." The Sunday Express
The Glass Menagerie in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 26 January 2017, opened on 2 February 2017 and closed on 29 April 2017