We each run our own maze, getting lost in the alleyways of society’s constructs, navigating roads that will lead to self-discovery or family approval. We walk past the ruins of regret, or resentment, arching for ways to find happiness. Witnessing ‘The Glass Menagerie’ is a journey into the central character Tom’s personal labyrinth of choices.
The play, running at The Junction from October 22-24, is an iteration of American playwright Tennessee Williams’ script based in the 1930s against the backdrop of the Great Depression in the US.
It’s told from the point of view of Tom, an aspiring poet who is forced into shoemaking because of financial commitments. Things come to a head when he – on the insistence of his dominating mother – tries to set up his painfully shy, disabled sister Laura with a colleague.
While it’s set in the early 1900s, its themes dig down to the bone of what it means to live in a society and what it means to be human. “The Glass Menagerie is set in the 1930's against the backdrop of the Great Depression in the US with an underlying feeling of being trapped, that there is no way out. We are all feeling stresses today as a result of COVID and the strain that has placed on us financially and mentally,” explains Director and Producer Pádraig Downey. “The character of Amanda [Tom’s mother] pines for her glory days of the past in the deep south. Those "glory" days were of course built for the most part on the backs of others exposing many hypocrisies and questioning who America was great for; thus adding some perspective to the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement we are seeing today,” he adds.
In the play, Tom feels trapped, having to put his own dreams on the backburner, and is constantly at odds with his dominating mother and trying to make his sister feel better about herself. “Laura lives in her own world of glass figurines (of her glass menagerie), the unicorn being her favourite. The unicorn doesn't quite belong in this world in the same way she feels she doesn't belong in a world where the disabled are overlooked and forgotten, something that is changing of late in our own society but problems still exist,” explains Downey.
The thing about the mother Tom’s fighting is, from her view-point, she’s only working for what she believes is best for her children. To get them to follow this road, she’ll twist arms or cajole – the end result is what counts. “She is a survivor; she is proud, fiercely protective of her children and loves them above all else. She wants the best for them but comes from a different age, a different world,” explains Gwen Watson, who plays Amanda. To those subjected to these means of course, her wall of will is just tiring.
Mario Silva, who plays Tom, adds: “Emotional manipulation is a big factor in this play, if you’ve never experienced it before, it’s like being hypnotized, you can’t step away from it to look at the situation objectively, you feel trapped in a situation, and how can you overcome this if the person manipulating you is your own immediate family? This is a reality that people experience at least once in a life time (immediate family or not) and it feels like a nightmare.”
A snapshot of memory, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ is a prism through which a person’s hopes and drives are unveiled. Shattered and strong, with lines of regret and reform, it exposes all the hues of choice that make Tom and his family who they are – a dysfunctional family unit that love one another even as they try to find a better path for themselves.
Don’t Miss it!
Tickets to see ‘The Glass Menagerie’ at The Junction, which runs from october 22-24, start at Dh85.