Sentenced to terms of solitary

26th January 1996 at 00:00
There's still a chance to catch Sam Mendes' skilfully controlled Donmar Warehouse production of The Glass Menagerie now at the Comedy Theatre for a limited season.

The sense of imprisonment of the Wingfield family - Tom, the poet obliged to work in a warehouse, his crippled sister Laura and their mother Amanda who lives on the memories of a more gracious past - is accentuated by the staging.

Metal walkways lead from the bleak back wall of the stage, across the front of the circle and down again to the humble St Louis apartment set. Laura's collection of glass animals, her pride and joy and a symbol of her own fragility and reluctance to face adulthood, is arranged downstage.

Ben Walden plays Tom, narrator as well as actor in the drama and closely modelled on Tennessee Williams himself, with affecting sincerity: he would have liked to bring happiness to the two women but can do no better than escape with his own sanity and prospects intact. Claire Skinner as the child-like Laura is touching as she steels herself to meet the Gentleman Caller, is briefly encouraged and then has her hopes dashed, while Zo Wanamaker plays Amanda with a mixture of toughness and vulnerability, both loving and insensitive, which anchors all the characters in their emotional isolation.

Heather Neill

Tickets: 0171 369 1731

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