Theatre Review: The Glass Menagerie – Malthouse Theatre (Performances until June 5th)

Theatre lovers prepare yourselves for a truly exquisite piece work from the mastermind that is Tennessee Williams. This autobiographical play is an awakening to the internal struggles that both men and women faced in the early 1940s; a time when women longed to find a man and as well homosexuality being taboo.

From the opening monologue of Tom Wingfield, played by actor Luke Mullins, we are captivated by the intrigue and mystery of such a tale, languishing over every word that spills out. Williams was an incredible wordsmith and his beautiful use of the English language allowed in depth character exploration throughout the three-hour performance.

Pamela Rabe & Luke Mullins photog Pia Johnson

A play like this requires a stellar cast to really explore the themes of such delicate subject matter. Pamela Rabe, who played Amanda Wingfield, is a mother just like any other mother wanting the best for both of her children. Her finesse and comedic timing are what bring this character to life and allow us to connect with her on levels that go deeper than surface value. We empathise with her struggle, both internally as a mother figure, but also her struggle to uplift her crippled daughter. These circumstances are most relatable to any woman, but the fervour she exuded far outweighed the stereotype.

There are many endearing moments shared between Rabe, Mullins and young actress Rose Riley, who played Laura Wingfield, and they were highlighted through the technical aspects of the play. Technology and theatre often raises the question of whether or not it is suitable for a live environment. In this case, the openness of the Malthouse Theatre allowed for breadth of movement and dialogue. Combine that with two projectors filming live at certain moments, and you feel as though you are watching a classic film noir. Being able to see the tender moments through this technological medium allowed a stronger connection to be formed between the audience and the actors.

Rose Riley & Pamela Rabe - photo Pia Johnson

The directorial choices made by Eamon Flack were nothing short of brilliant. In fact, to gain a further insight into the historical origins of this play be sure to read his note at the beginning of the program. It is clear that Flack has a way with words just like Williams did. Perhaps this was a match made in heaven — a collaboration of sorts between the two. Either way, this story lives on.


The Glass Menagerie is showing at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne until June 5. Tickets are available from here.

The reviewer attended the show on opening night May 19.

Photos: Pia Johnson


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