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Under the Spotlight

A review of The Glass Menagerie by Aya Adib

“In these trying times we live in, all that we have to cling to is each other” - Amanda Wingfield

A quote that seems to hold particular resonance in these - dare I say it - "unprecedented" times. In an age where the world itself has physically slipped from our grasp and we remain semi-confined to our spaces, the need for interdependence has grown more overt. The power of people, support and a need to escape (all things we can more so relate to now than ever) is poetically illustrated in Tennessee Williams's timeless memory play, The Glass Menagerie. Set during the Great Depression we follow the dysfunctional Wingfield family through the narration of Tom, an aspiring poet who also a factory shoemaker who supports his mother Amanda, a faded southern belle who refuses to let go of the past, and his painfully shy older sister Laura who copes through the medium of a set of glass figurines as she remains protected in her own world of fantasy. Financial struggles, the fear of abandonment and the unknown future burdens the family as domestic tensions rise. The themes of escapism, fragility, abandonment and the extent to which one would go for freedom are delivered with this hauntingly beautiful yet saddening tale. This piece, directed by Pádraig Downey, was performed by Danú Dubai at The Junction Theatre towards the end of October granting us stunning performances, thoughtful design and an overall transporting production.

Laura Wingfield (left) besides her mother Amanda Wingfield (right). Such a similarity is not drawn without purpose and intention and in this case such colour choices reveal deep-rooted struggles and tension between the mother-daughter duo (via @danudubai Instagram)

Spotlight on Costume:

It is often assumed that with pieces set in a

particular time period the main role of the costume is to embody this slice of time however, costume has an immense power to become emblematic of the character themselves revealing elements that grant us deeper insight and this production in no way falls short in this regard. The costumes of Laura and Amanda, in particular, really highlighted the relationship dynamic they share. Laura, dressed in a full length light blue dress and alongside her, Amanda strategically placed in a full length turquoise dress. It is imperative to address the impact of such colour choices on the presentation of these two characters. The light blue on Laura presents a sense of vitality, a youthful girl in her 20s, and yet it was the addition of the green undertone in Amanda's costume that interested me. I long considered the idea that the green could be symbolic of the envy felt by Amanda towards Laura in regards to her youth and the faint similarity between the two dresses suggests that Amanda still continues to cling on to her golden days as a young southern belle, unable to come to terms with her current reality.

Spotlight on Lighting:

Whilst "the world is lit by lightning" the stage was lit with colour! Colour lighting throughout the production proved to be crucial in gaining a semiotic understanding of these beautifully illuminated moments. Most notably, in the final scene when Jim informs Laura of his engagement with a girl named Betty and breaks Laura’s glass unicorn we are met with a side by side image of Laura to the left sitting under a harsh white light and Jim to the right under a soft blue light. Throughout the production the blue general wash has been used to create this memory and dream-like feel which suggests that Jim is now merely a part of Laura’s memory and an unattainable dream as she sits in the harsh light of reality: glass menagerie in pieces, and a fantasy shattered - there is no longer a place to hide. A captivating image.

The stunning and detailed set and stage furniture truly help to capture the essence of extravagance alongside the erosion of the family dynamic perfectly encapsulating the doomed facade of the family themselves. (via @danudubai Instagram)

Spotlight on Set Design:

Both the set and stage furniture highlighted the presence of the family’s façade whilst illustrating the lingering struggle that is their true reality. The overall set of the Wingfield home was done up with deep red furniture cushions and carpet accompanied with gold furniture frames and a gold table mat with intricate detailing. The luxury appearance of the space contrasted with the chipping wallpaper truly highlights the putting up of appearances by Amanda in particular. She, quite literally, fabricates her fantasies in her surroundings to maintain this façade of luxury and youth that she yearns for. The chipping of the wall represents the realities they face and the erosion of this fantasy Amanda cloaks herself in as the tensions build leading to the explosive collapse of the family unit at the end of the play. Other notable details was the addition of a fourth chair to the dining table further emphasizing this loss they share as a result of their father’s abandonment who’s framed image acts as the centrepiece to the entire set hung up centrally and just behind the table where we are constantly reminded of his absence ironically by his constant presence. (Also, I must add that it was quite a treat noticing the image of Tennessee Williams being used for the father’s portrait!)

Tom (left) in argument with his mother, Amanda (right). The range of emotions Gwen Watson (Amanda) carries us through amidst these disagreements was truly captivating alongside Mario Silva’s (Tom) deep bitterness and frustration driven performance. Both characters as stubborn as each other and their inability to compromise leaves the family dynamic shattered. (via @danudubai Instagram)

Spotlight on Performance:

Tom Wingfield, played by Mario Silva, transports us as our narrator to this world of frustration and hurt that erodes Amanda, performed by the incredible Gwen Watson, delivers this juxtaposition of her grand, overbearing persona alongside her deeply fearful existence. Laura, played by Lucy McFeely showcases the character’s softness alongside a fragility that comes crashing down towards the end of the piece. Jim, portrayed by Steven Johanson, embodies the brightness that is the assumed hope for this family and it is with this brightness that he arrives but then leaves, taking the light with him. Whilst each performance was amazing in their own right I found that when these characters came together on stage was when sparks truly began to fly. In particular, the complex dynamic created between Watson and Silva truly heightened Amanda and Tom’s dysfunctional relationship. The sarcastic, explosive and blunt delivery by Silva coupled with the dramatic and emotional portrayal by Watson absolutely stole the show.

Our purpose here at co|laboratory is to showcase how theatre prevails in collaboration and how we can support the arts in a more tangible way. With theatre finally coming back to life we are so pleased to highlight the theatre company that put on this amazing showing of The Glass Menagerie: Danú Dubai. Established in 2013 by Pádraig Downey, Danú Dubai has received numerous awards and has had the opportunity to perform in every major theatre in Dubai and we look forward to staying in touch, seeing what they have in store for the future... and maybe even possible collaborations!

Make sure to keep up to date with Danú Dubai by following them on Facebook via Danú Dubai or Instagram via @danudubai


© Aya Adib for Collab Company | 2020


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