What is the desired effect on the audience? How do you want them to feel after they’ve watched the show?
A deeper understanding of the human condition and an empathy for who the characters are and what their situation is. An understanding of how we tick and why we do certain things. Ultimately, our goal is to create something which impacts an audience in new and exciting ways. We want people to feel something pure but also to ask questions about family, America, loss and popular culture. Those are all things that we are interested in and that we’ve been exploring; on one hand, we're exploring something really beautiful, but we're also keen to ask big questions about how we live now.
“This is mostly forgotten when talking about the play, but it was so far ahead of its time in terms of its formal innovation. What I think is often missing in productions though is the sheer theatricality of it.”
How are Williams stage directions going to be treated?
I’d say…hmm…how should I word this? With a pinch of salt! We’re not sticking to them stringently. There are a lot of stage directions but we don't feel beholden to Williams' stage directions of miming food; we can imagine that collectively as an audience, so it's not 100% necessary.
Why do you think this play is still relevant?
Because it’s set in America when there was a really deep depression and people were facing hardship, struggling to make ends meet. In tough times, we have to come together as families and communities to try and understand one another better, and the play asks questions about this situation. There is a real struggle to connect with each other. We all come across hardship and difficulty and some of us will struggle to cope. That’s never going to change really. We need to reach out and hold each other in these sort of circumstances. The Glass Menagerie paints a beautiful portrait of what family means, and about how we cope - or struggle to cope - with loss.
What do you this is really great about the play?
This is mostly forgotten when talking about the play, but it was so far ahead of its time in terms of its formal innovation. What I think is often missing in productions though is the sheer theatricality of it. Tennessee Williams himself says that it shouldn’t be in a realistic world. It states that in the stage directions and that really allows us to open it up universally.
Are you using the N word?
No, we’ve changed it to houseboy.
Do you think it is about vulnerable people? How society deals with them?
I don’t think it’s necessarily about vulnerability. These characters are far stronger than meets the eye. There is so much strength within them and they have an extraordinary ability to cope and to deal with what has happened to them.
As far as you and Ellen are concerned, who’s the protagonist? Who do you think is the lead?
I don’t really think there is one. The first thing we see is Tom talking to us, so essentially we go backwards and forwards in time throughout the play. But though Tom tells us the story, it is as much Amanda's, Laura's and Jim's as it is his. They’re all telling their own stories. There is not really one character who is onstage any more than the other.
Do you think that makes it trickier?
I think it’s a gift actually! It’s not like Hamlet where you have to work everyone else around that character. There’s a real sense that everyone is in ownership of the narrative, the characters and the situation – it’s not any one person's in particular. Which is rare.
How are you going to help the actors become familiar with their characters? Are there any special exercises?
It’s not so much that there are any exercises, it’s more that we’re giving them material to think about and work with. For example, today we put up real life pictures of places that are mentioned in the script. That gives a really clear picture of what this world is.