Compántas Lir present ‘The Glass Menagerie’ by Tennessee Williams

Setting

Synopsis

First performed in 1944, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ was Tennessee Williams’ breakthrough play. The story, as told through the memories of Tom, elude to Williams’ own past. In this production Compántas Lir have put more distance between Tom and the ghosts of his past. “Time is the longest distance between two places”. In what is a fresh revision of the piece, which Williams himself described as the saddest play he ever wrote, Compántas Lir look back on a play that was a breakthrough piece of theatre in its own time. To this day, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ evokes a haunting reflection of Williams’ personal struggles, and that of all lost poets.

Cast

Amanda Wingfield Liz Hession
Tom Wingfield Vincent Moran
Laura Wingfield Deana McGuire
Gentlemen Caller Darragh Moran

Crew

Director Dermot Hession
Stage Manager Mary McCarthy
Lighting and Set design Dermot Hession, Gus McCarthy
Lighting operation Stella Fleming
Projectionist Paul McNulty
Sound Operation Dermot Hession
Make Up Ann Moran
Set Crew Simon Kavanagh, Mike Hession
Stage Crew Compántas Lir Members

About The Group

Formed in 1983, Compántas Lir first took to the circuit in 1986. With many fine productions throughout the years, the company have tackled major works by authors as varied as Oscar Wilde, John B Keane, Brian Friel and many more in between. During its history the company made many appearances at the Confined All Ireland Festival. They have travelled to every corner of the country with great success. In 2014 the group won the Confined One Act All Ireland Final in Ballyshannon performing ‘Nine’ by Jane Shepherd. The group followed that success in 2016 by winning the Confined Three Act All Ireland title in Castleblayney with their production of ‘Proof’ by David Auburn. 2018 marks Compántas Lir’s first qualification to the Open All Ireland Festival.

Summary of Adjudicator’s Comments

The adjudicator, Anna Walker ADA, said that she adjudicated the confined All-Ireland in 2016,  and saw an amazing version of the play Proof, which was presented by Compantas Lir.  They subsequently won the that competition, and it was a delight to see them in Athlone on the opening night of the Open All Ireland Drama Festival with their production of ‘The Glass Menagerie’.
Tennessee Williams was a writer who conceived things visually in sound, colour and movement.  He embraced the notion of Plastic Theatre, which was the orchestration of words, music, lighting, textural design and movement.
The adjudicator commented on the music, which underscored the text so well, and the texture of the velvet couch brought in elements of this plasticity. The beautiful unicorn mobile which swung delicately overhead, and the small glass table reflected those elements also.
Ms Walker thought the acting was strong enough, but sometimes tonight she “felt the on screen projections were a little jarring,”.
“Desperation anchors this play, and I felt that the director caught most of the elements of despair, and there is gentle humour in the play which was captured beautifully,” said the adjudicator.
However she said she felt the set worked against the claustrophobic quality in the play, and she would like to have seen and felt more of that feeling of claustrophobia.
She liked the scenes of the mother and the gentleman caller, which she said broke the tension, which was really important in the play.
She questioned the idea of casting a more mature actor in the role of Tom. The role of narrator was heightened, to the detriment of Tom’s family involvement.  This pulled the claustrophobic action and energy.  As this family live in a liminal space, between the apartment and death alley, the adjudicator said she would have liked the outside area to have a greater resonance in the play and give us a sense of how the outside impinges on their lives.
The adjudicator liked the pace of the production, and thought the transitions were really fluid, with good rhythm, pacing and phrasing.
“I thought the darkened scenes which were very difficult to do, work very well and the scene on the floor where Laura was with the gentleman caller was well calibrated,” she said.  “Tenderness was captured, and the kiss was full of tenderness too.”
She said the play had “really high production values,” and was visually very engaging, and again said the lighting and sound was simply splendid.
“The delicate soundscape was a vital component of the play, and the music was excellent and represented beauty and brokenness, which is what this play is all about,” said the adjudicator.
Amanda was played  by Liz Hession. This actress gave Amanda a grounded earthly quality. However, the adjudicator felt that Amanda’s tenuous grasp of reality needed to be heightened.
“At times that worked against the momentum of the play, but Amanda’s love of her children is never in doubt, and that comes through, and she was a woman doing her best, and you felt her disappointment at her children,” said the adjudicator.
She said that in the second half, Amanda was an absolute vision, due to her new dress.
“This actress could have allowed a girlish quality to come out a little more, and that would have helped her character quite a lot, and a change in vocal pitch would have helped,” said Ms Walker.
She said there is something beautiful about the actor Vincent Moran, in his portrayal of Tom, and that playing the narrator is difficult, but he had excellent physicality, and was an excellent drunk as well.
“His throwaway lines were marvellous, and I felt this character was haunted and that was captured beautifully,” she said.
She also said “Well done,” to Darragh Moran as the gentleman caller, and said he had a lovely stage presence, and good natural vitality.
She told Deana McGuire who played Laura that she handled the poetic language in the play beautifully.
“I liked the gently suggested limp, and she played her character well,” said Ms Walker.
She particularly commented about a scene when Laura was looking at herself in a mirror, being beautifully realised by the director.
“It might have been the first time she looked at herself,” said the adjudicator.   “The tenderness of the kiss was beautiful, and we felt her sense of hope and her sense of desolation when she heard about Betty.”
The adjudicator said that Deana’s performance was totally organic, natural and unforced and would have been so easy to push that over, but she held it back.
“Some of the directorial choices worked against feelings of memory and delicacy, but the general humour and the poetry of the language was caught and the energised and focussed cast gave their all,” said Ms. Walker.