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A Tale of Two Plays - theatre reveiws

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#1 Marius


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Posted 24 March 2007 - 11:51 PM

A Tale of Two Plays - theatre reveiws

Well today I was lucky enough to catch two plays while I was in london.

First off was The Glass Menagerie at The Apollo Theatre. first off I just have to say what a beautiful theatre this is, and in great condition with very friendly staff. Im finding Nimax Theatres now as much as a pleasure to visit as Delfont Mackintosh ones.  This was also my first Tennessee Williams play.

I LOVED this production, everything about it screamed class and quality. The sets were simple but very affective, and the lighting and projections were subtle but worked with stunning effect. It was a truely atmospheric production. On arrival at the theatre I was saddened to hear that they had closed the top two sections and only had Dress Circle and Stalls open (I had prebooked the stalls anyway), so the play obviously isnt a sell out.

The play itself I found completely engrossing and fast moving. I was never bored or even contemplated looking at my watch. It was thought provoking and moving, it made me look at my life and family in a different way - actually afterwards I just wanted to hug my mum! There are parts of this play that I think everyone will find they can in some way relate to.

Its a small cast, but what a cast. I wasnt a fan of Jessica Lange beforehand (I didnt 'not' like her, just had neevr really seen her in anything) however she took control on stage. I wasnt watching Jessica Lange being Amanda, I was watching Amanda. She gives a performance so touching, fragile, spirited, and at times frustrating it gives so much depth to the character. Its often the little things that make the biggest meaning, a look, the constant playing with her sons hair,  her girlish laughter at her memories of 'gentleman callers', she has a wide range from fussing mother to faded southern belle.

Ed Stoppard as Tom is a tortured soul, struggling between his desire to escape and his commitments at home. Although in Act 2 he doesnt really take centre stage, Act 1 he makes a memorable impression, and can switch from comedy to drama on a dime. He has a great brooding presence, and has truely penetrating eyes. You feel for him with his frustration, scared of becoming like his father, but yearning for another life.

Mark Umbers, in a relatively small part in many ways, manages to convey a charcter of depth and shows that dispite his characters happy charm, lies an inner unhappiness. Its his scene by candlelight with Amandas daughter Laura that captures the essence of the production.

Last but no means least is Amanda Hale as Laura, a truely stunning performance that actually for me just outshone Jessica's. Lauara is played so carefully, delicately and simply that at first she is overshadowed. by her brother and mother. But this play is all about Laura - its her story, and this gradually shines through. Every little movement conveys Lauras thoughts and feelings, and you truely care for this young and troubled girl. She just inhabits this charcter and for me its one of the best performances ive seen in a long while.

The scene between Laura and her gentleman caller (Mark Umbers) is so beautifully written, directed and acted that you can literally see the audience hanging on every word. It is a pleasure to see the nervy Laura slowly let down her guard to him, and you feel her joy, and sadness with every breath.

I truely cant speak highly enough of this production and with so many deals about you really should  catch this play, and this cast while you can.

Next up was my first visit to the Old Vic for 'The Entertainer'. Well first off have to say, really dont like the theatre. Good legroom I admit but it feels so cavernous, just didnt have a nice feel about the place.

Now ive gone on way too long about the Glass Menagerie so ill be brief on The Entertainer - which to be honest is easy to do!

I dont know why but I found it a bit slow, it just never grabbed me or came to life. Robert Lindsay was excellent, cant fault his performance. Pam Ferris was also good (although not great). The play itself just felt very old, there was nothing fresh about it, almost like I was watching it in the 50's now. I didnt like Emma Cunniffe at all im afraid, found her to be quite bland, maybe thats how its written?! The first scene between grandad and grandaughter seemed to go on forever. I think what didnt help was I didnt relate to any of the characters and it just didnt feel like a real family, I didnt feel involved in the play.

I know it got raves from critics but sorry didnt grab me!

#2 canmark


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Posted 25 March 2007 - 04:13 PM

I wish I had seen The Glass Menagerie when I was in London recently, but I had seen a production in Toronto last year and couldn't fit it in my schedule. It's really such a lovely play. Not over the top like Streetcar, but more relatable to the audience, I think. I mean, as frustrating and overbearing as Amanada is, we know that she's doing it out of love for her children. And one can relate that to our own family. Similarly, while Tom feels an obligation to Laura (and to Amanda), at some point he feels he wants to have a life of his own--and the only way is to separate, to leave, although he regrets what might seem as cruelty.

I had attended a weekday matinee and there was a student group in the audience. It was clear that the girls, at least, could related to Laura, as they laughed and sighed during her awkward 'date' with the Gentleman Caller. And I thought it was great that modern teenagers could relate to a play written in the '40's and set in a time and place so different from theirs. It's a testament to Tennessee Williams's timeless writing.

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