The Glass Menagerie Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat 7 Feb ** Tennessee Williams' plays are rich in poetic language, prominent symbolism, feisty heroines and high passions. They lend themselves to full- on performances and can wring tears from the most hard-hearted audiences. So why does visiting director Polly Teale's Lyceum production fail to dish out the goods?
This is not the easiest of Williams' plays to stage effectively. Although it won him Broadway acclaim in 1945, A Streetcar Named Desire — which came two years later -- is stronger in all suits. While that play depicts an intimate, three-cornered sexual battle; the earlier piece is a wistful reminiscence on a family's failure to support its members, a play less of interaction than of withdrawal.
Williams was clearly exorcising autobiographical ghosts: the central character Tom (Alec Newman) even shares his (real) forename; while Williams' sister, like Laura in the play, was socially maladjusted and a thorn in her brother's conscience. The very need for his narrative introductions — explaining the play's symbols and remarking on its sentimentality — is questionable, even in the era of post- modernism, where art is free to revel in self-awareness.
The problems begin with Neil Warmington’s skeletal set. It does a good job of placing the play in 305 St Louis, the Midwestern city where
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Wistful memories: Lois Baxter and Alec Newman in The Glass Menagerie
Southern-born Williams spent much of his youth. But its incongruous, naturalistic furnishings fail to prowde an impregnable domestic sanctuary in which pitifully frail Laura and her misguidedly idealistic mother Amanda can foster their fantasy life.
All three performances are strong enough, though the accents vary, but here too there's a lack of cohesion The sense of family intimaCy is seldom glimpsed, and we don’t see enough of the inner life of Lois Baxter’s Amanda to forgive the torments she inflicts on her daughter.
Thus, the arrival of lvlatthew
Pidgeon’s relaxed and handsome Gentleman Caller is not so much the rupturing of a hidden world as a ruffling of feathers The production as a whole, and Monica Dtilan's performance as Laura, do catch fire at this pOint, but by then it’s far too late Sadly, but not sadly enough, there are too many dry eyes at the end of the night. (Andrew Buriiet)
STAR RATlNGS x a w x it Unmissable * at w it Very good an: * Worth a shot a 9: Below average w Y0u’ve been warned
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The musings of three randy teenagers trapped in geriatric bodies in this comedy
Night Sullie-d Fleh
Wed I 5 February "Strong writing, ludicrous wit... a gay man's Dadaistic Trainspotting"
NEW STREET, PATSLEY
GHOST STORY The Turn Of The Screw
Glasgow: Citizens' Circle Studio, until 31 Jan want
The Turn Of The Screw belongs here. The claustrophobic round of the Citz’ Circle Studio perfectly contextualises Jon Pope’s atmospheric adaptation of Henry lames’s novel. Lise Stevenson’s governess is a study in frustration, beating against the transparent confines of her calling and class like a butterfly trapped in a jar.
Responsible for two children in an isolated country house, the young governess — fresh from London's freedoms — sacrifices her passionate nature to her posnion’s proprieties. Before long her quiet retreat is transformed into a place of feverish terror; but are the horrors real or phantoms of a repreSSion-deformed imagination? Haunted house or mansion fever?
The casting reflects this ambiguity: four actors - two adults and two children - play the young brother and sister. Although this adds to the play thematically, it is a confusion which detracts from the grinding narrative force. Adrian Johnston’s score is a much more successful complement; dark rumblings and hypnotically repetitive signatures creating a sense of unease, circularity and fate. This is the sound of dread.
Michael Lancaster's inventive lighting is just as great. Stuck at the end of the spectrum marked 'bloody moody', he drives the atmosphere from erotically-
charged to pant-wettingly scary and all stops between. Menacingly blurred faces film—proiected onto actors to represent apparitions are especially spooky
But such effects swamp some fine acting at all but its most hysterical points, leavmg an overall feeling of style over content. The Turn Of The Screw is all about suffocation, but the actors could use some room to breath.
Suffocating in atmosphere: lise Stevenson and Edward Laurie in The Turn Of The Screw
16 January .- 7 February
The G lass Menagerie
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av TENNESSEE WILLiAivis
'l'uesjclay —‘Saturday at 7.45pm Students: only £5 'l‘ues. — Thurs.
Box Office: 0131 229 9697.
23 Jan—S leli l998 THE UST 69