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Friday, March 8, 2013

A piece of acting brilliance from Twenty Club

There are only four people on stage in the Twenty Club’s current production of the Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams at Llangollen Town Hall.  

But between them they produce enough raw acting talent for at least ten times that number. 

The title aptly sums up the glass-like fragility of three of the characters, who inhabit a claustrophobic apartment in an American town during the Depression of the 1930s. 

First, there’s the mother Amanda Wingfield, an ageing, out-of-tune southern belle who has been striving desperately to keep together her family following the sudden departure of her telephone engineer husband – who we never see apart from his a faded portrait on the wall – 16 years earlier. 

But given her controlling, meddling approach to life, who could blame the guy for doing a runner to the other side of the continent? 

Amanda is played with nothing short of brilliance by Rachel Morris using, like the rest of the cast, a faultless southern American accent. 

When she talks about all those “gen’lman cawlers” she used to receive in her gentile youth you really believe that she once lived in a “f-i-i-i-i-n-e” mansion set in the rolling acres of a plantation. 

Every nuance of the character is deftly conveyed, every movement of her body perfectly executed. 

In the apartment Amanda holds sway over her two children. 

One of them is son Tom, a man in his early twenties who is clearly too intelligent for his humble position on the bottom rung of the ladder at the local warehouse and squanders the days until he can escape to a new life of adventure in the merchant marine going to the movies, drinking bourbon and smoking endless cigarettes.

He fights against the smothering of his mother but never wins. 

Bringing Tom, who also steps aside to be the play’s sardonic narrator, vividly to life is one of the Twenty Club’s youngest members, Morgan Thomas.

Watching the consummate way he handles this mega-part – his character is on stage for most of the piece – it’s hard to believe he is still just 17 years old.  This is definitely an actor who is going places, and not necessarily only with an amateur group.  

Third member of the terrific trio is Anna Turner who plays Tom’s slightly older sister Laura, a painfully shy girl who lives in a world of her own which revolves round playing old gramophone records left behind by her absent father and gazing on her display case menagerie of small glass animals. 

Although she has far less dialogue than the other two other family members, Anna shines in the role, shuffling convincingly around the stage, wringing her hands and hardly daring to look anyone in the eye.
Her mother’s main aim is life is to get poor Laura married off – ideally to a man of substance so that she can continue to be financially supported by him when Tom makes his inevitable break for freedom just like his father did. 

She pleads with Tom to bring home any nice young man he might know from the warehouse for Laura to meet. 

He does just that – and this is when those fragile pieces of glass in the apartment start to get broken, in more ways than one. 

As this marvellously absorbing play has another two nights to run – tonight (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) – it would be unfair to say just what impact the fourth character, Jim O’Connor, has on the complicated Wingfield clan. 

But it is fair to say the man playing this outgoing young man of Irish descent who has the gift of the blarney, Aaron Davies, does so every bit as brilliantly as his three fellow cast members.  

With the Glass Menagerie, which is a credit to its director Natalie Evans, the Twenty Club has a smash hit on its hands. 

See it if you can.

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