Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court
Tennessee Williams' first great success is a gift to its actors. CTW's high-quality quartet seized their opportunities, and gave us some fine, emotionally charged performances.
The memory play was introduced by Robert Bastian, narrating in a totally involving, movingly natural series of fireside chats. It was as if he was sharing intimate confessions, impromptu, with every member of the audience individually - a remarkable achievement. He was also superb as the son, for whom, in the end, not even the movies can provide an escape route from the banality and tedium of his stifling family life.
His drunken home-coming was beautifully judged, contrasting with the dejected return of Lynne Foster's broken mother, bewildered by life, disappointed by her daughter, arguing with her son in a memorable confrontation.
The pathetic Laura was Kat Tokely, whose extended scene with her Gentleman Caller [Lionel Bishop] was one of the most carefully crafted I've seen on this stage. The hopes, fears, dreams and delusions of these two damaged young people were appallingly real, the symbolism and the lighting both adding an extra frisson.
The lighting was often effective, the narrator's lime spilling onto the glass animals, and Kenton Church's music tracks, with a delicate, tinkling theme for Laura, helped the drama too.
The fire escape looked good, but the set generally was disappointing, with wayward doors and unconvincing furniture. The flats looked like, well, flats, and the door handles looked like Homebase. The performances deserved better.
And despite the many impressive facets of the production, the overall effect was uneven and inconsistent, and the evening did not quite live up to the promise of the opening moments.
The Glass Menagerie was directed by Raynor Henden-Bragg, assisted by Vince Webb.