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REVIEW The Glass Menagerie, Duke of York's Theatre or enjoyment spoiled bad production design

Screen-Shot-2016-10-21-at-00.13.18-1I'm a firm believer in 'you get what you pay for' except when it comes to theatre because the rule book seems to get thrown out of the window. The last production of The Glass Menagerie I saw was at the Young Vic in 2011 where I probably paid £20 or less and got a perfect view. I was chuffed to bits when I managed to nab a pair of the special offer £20 tickets in the stalls for The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York's, particularly as it was chance to see Broadway star Cherry Jones and Stan fav Kate O'Flynn.

The seats were on the end of row H, seats that if you were to book them now you would pay nearly £60. Good seats, or so I thought. The problem is that the production design is such that whenever the actors are stage left on a balcony or something, I couldn't see them. Then in the crucial final act when Laura and the gentleman caller are sat on the stage talking, I had the head of the person in front obscuring my view because the rake is too shallow. It meant I couldn't see both characters at the same time and had to make a frustrating choice as to which to watch and therefore felt like I was only getting half of the conversation - do you watch the person talking or the person reacting?

I mention this as a warning: if you are booking avoid the edge of the rows (higher seat numbers). And also to illustrate why the West End is far from the best place to see good theatre in London. I also want to set my review in context because not be able to see properly did spoil my enjoyment - this is a play of nuances.

So what of it? Well Cherry Jones didn't disappoint as the overbearing mother trapped in her own romantic notions and desires for her children. She was beautifully stuck in past as the Southern Belle swishing around in her lacy frock, talking of gentlemen callers and her youth with rose-tinted glasses. All the while her children Tom (Michael Esper) and Laura (Kate O'Flynn) fight to appease her and fight their own wishes and desires.

Tom is the bread winner in the absence of their father but is desperate to escape from the narrow frame of life that seems to be marked out for him. The painfully shy and self conscience Laura, rather than being teased out of her shell is pushed into retreat, pushed into the comforting arms of her father's old gramophone records and her collection of glass animals. It takes a relative stranger to give a glimpse of who she could be in a different environment. It is play about fulfilling promise and unfulfilled promises, the tension just as much within the characters themselves as between them.

There are some nice staging touches such as the way Laura enters and exits the stage at the beginning and end but equally there are others that jar. The movement pieces didn't add any thing for me and just served to slow the pace, particularly in the first half.

Most of what I saw I enjoyed and thought was well done but I'd have like to have seen the whole thing. The Glass Menagerie is at the Duke of York's Theatre until April 29 and is two hours and 20 minutes with an interval.

 

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