The Glass Menagerie set is one of those that makes you stop in your tracks when you first walk into the theatre. It's not particularly lavish but I've never seen the Young Vic opened up and used in quite the same way, revealing the full extent of the stage with metal walk ways and steps hugging the exposed brick walls.
After seeing two very disappointing plays at the weekend being impressed by the set was a very good start indeed and the cast wouldn't need to do too much to revive my faith in theatre as an entertaining and engaging way of spending an evening.
And they didn't let me down. Indeed where Saturday night's Dracula was stage school this production and the performances were PhD at a top university.
Leo Bill as Tom, the son torn between family duty and living the life he dreams of, immediately grabbed attention, delivering the opening lines slowly and deliberately meeting the gaze of the audience as if a master magician creating a distraction:
“Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.“
The rich red velvet pelmet that fringed the stage then like a magician's cape rose up to the fly briefly obscuring the stage so that the rest of Tom's family, mother Amanda (Deborah Findlay) and sister Laura (Sinead Matthews) seemed to magically appear. And so the scene was set for the story of family that is living not so much in an illusion but in their own dillusion.
Amanda's lives in the past of her youth. Life on a plantation when she had her pick of gentlemen callers clinging on to the hope that she'll glimpse it all again through her daughter. Tom meanwhile is struggling to reconcile his duty as bread winner and man of the house in the absence of his father with his desire for adventure and a life quite different. He is a poet working in a warehouse.
Meanwhile the painfully shy, self-conscious, nervous and mildly crippled Laura retreats from her mother's match-making to her father's gramaphone records and her collection of glass animals.
Son is pitted against mother, mother against daughter and son but nothing can quite break the illusory life they all lead until Tom's friend Jim (Kyle Soller) is invited for dinner one evening.