Tag: Tennessee Williams

Belvoir Presents THE GLASS MENAGERIE

Beautiful reimagining of a classic

By Bradley Storer

The Glass Menagerie, the first great success of legendary American playwright Tennessee Williams, is a curious thing – not entirely a traditional naturalistic play nor an abstract lyrical Symbolist piece, it lives in the blurry division between fantasy, reality and memory. Director Eamon Flack emphasizes this essential ambiguity from the outset, as narrator Tom Wingfield (Luke Mullins) enters casually through the audience and seemingly begins to construct the play both physically and textually before our very eyes in his opening monologue.

The Glass Menagerie.jpg

The multifaceted set designed by Michael Hankin, the tiny Wingfield family apartment that unfolds in continually surprising ways, is surrounded by cameras (with video design by Sean Bacon) that project images onto near by screens as the play unfurls, creating delectable moments of intimacy with the characters and thrilling moments of theatrical ingenuity at the same time it theatricalizes and distances these moments as though we are seeing scenes from an old Hollywood picture – further suggesting the way Tom has shaped and crafted his memories until the line between his nostalgic remembrance and the reality has disappeared completely.

Mullins as Wingfield is remarkable, combining the soul of a poet with a bitter and sardonic twist of humour that one senses is the result of a sensitive spirit yearning for the freedom his home life denies him. Pamela Rabe as his mother Amanda, one of the great Southern belles of the Williams canon, gives a truly titanic performance, moving from a shrewd no-nonsense woman beaten down by the harsh realities of her life to the winsome love-struck girl of her youth with ease in the space of a single scene, creating a portrait of a woman burdened by both her massive maternal love and the seething resentment underneath. Rose Riley as Laura, Tom’s shy and disabled sister, brings a surprising and refreshing tom-boyishness to the role, and when her closed-off but scintillating face is projected in big screen, it is easy to see why Laura is the heart (and the central mystery) of this nostalgic play.

The first act is close to perfection, but the second act where the lives of the Wingfelds is interrupted by the visit of a gentleman caller (a jovial Harry Greenwood) seems to get a bit lost, and the final moments of the play fail to bring together the wide-ranging resources used throughout into a  satisfying conclusion. But when this production succeeds, which it often does, those moments are truly magical.

Venue: Malthouse Theatre, Merlyn Theatre, 113 Sturt St

Dates: 18th May – 5th June

Times: Tuesday 6:30pm, Wednesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Saturday 1pm, Sunday 5pm

Bookings: www.malthousetheatre.com.au, (03) 9685 5111, boxoffice@malthousetheatre.com.au

Prices: Adult $65, Concession $50, Senior $60, Tertiary Student and Under 30’s $35

Image by Pia Johnson, Malthouse and Belvoir

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REVIEW: The Daniel Schlusser Ensemble’s MENAGERIE

A daring exploration of the essence of a life

By Christine Moffat

Menagerie is a composite of many ideas, combining the real and imagined life and companions of playwright Tennessee Williams. This is experimental theatre, bordering on performance art, something that the Daniel Schlusser Ensemble has become known for. A circus of characters in and around a small, seedy shack create a cacophony of noise and movement. It’s a risky combination: when it worked, it created sublime theatrical experiences. When it didn’t, the result was prettily arranged tableaux better suited to photography.

Menagerie

There is no arc or emotional journey within this show. This type of experimental work is aiming for more than a good story: it is seeking the essence of an event, or in this case, a life. Through a controlled mayhem, director Daniel Schlusser weaves six incredibly capable actors into a tragically beautiful tapestry. Throughout the piece, the cast became a dysfunctional family. Each performance seemed to exploit the personal strengths of each actor. Josh Price (Williams) and Zahra Newman (Ozzie) both delivered powerful, potentially dominating performances. Price was particularly interesting as the many dishevelled versions of Williams. These larger roles were tempered and complimented by the subtle work of Kevin Hofbauer (Frank) and Edwina Wren (Rose). Jane Badler (Edwina) and Karen Sibbing were erratic, tragic and hilarious, and owned the audience more than once.

The set, designed by Dale Ferguson, was almost a character in itself. It consisted of the claustrophobic hut, surrounded by an assortment of rough amenities that suggested both squalor, and the enmeshed, suffocating family that plagued the real Williams. Although not emotionally affecting in the way a traditional theatre piece would be, Menagerie achieves a sense of truth about Williams’ internal world that you instinctively believe. The ensemble appear to have taken what is known about Williams the artist and worked backwards to present a valid hypothesis of how that complex man was created. This achievement indicates the method in their mayhem.

Menagerie (part of NEON Festival of Independent Theatre)
Venue: MTC Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
Dates: 18 to 26 May 2013
Show times: Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm (duration 90mins + interval)
Tickets: $25
Bookings: 03 8688 0800 or www.mtc.com/neon