The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, is a deeply sad, moving memory play which catapulted Williams to fame in 1944. It contains some autobiographical elements, such as the mental fragility of his sister, represented by Laura in the play. A childhood accident left her with a limp, causing Laura to suffer crippling shyness and insecurity, described in the play as an inferiority complex. Laura’s mother, former southern belle, Amanda, is desperate for Laura to marry a ‘gentleman caller’. Amanda’s persistence is suffocating, as she holds onto memories of gentlemen callers from her past life. Laura’s brother, Tom Wingfield, narrates the play. Tom longs to escape his surroundings, burdened by the responsibility to provide for his family, in a job he despises.

Kate O’Flynn depicts the damaged, cautious and introverted character of Laura expertly. The bullying and insecurity developed through her childhood injury has left Laura isolated and alone. She lives in her own world, disconnected from the chaos around her. Laura lives vicariously through her collected of glass animals, her favourite being the unicorn. They are fragile, and easily broken, much like her. O’Flynn plays Laura’s fragility very well, understated yet deeply effectively. The shaky, nervous tone of her voice stays with me weeks later. Kate O’Flynn’s performance was beautifully painful to watch, and has deeply impacted me.

The gentleman caller named Jim O’Connor, played by Brian J. Smith, offers a glimmer of hope for Amanda. It turns out that he was Laura’s high school crush, the one man she ever truly liked. At first, Laura’s debilitating shyness and anxiety stops her from joining the others at dinner. It is only when she and Jim are left alone in the candlelit living room that they begin to connect. They share stories of high school, and Laura reminds him that they both were in the choir together. It is a beautiful moment to see Laura be set free from her stifling insecurity, if only momentarily. Her giddy, childish personality is revealed, as we see a potentially happy life for her and Jim. After an emotionally charged dance together, Jim crushingly reveals he is engaged to be married. Although often a deeply depressing outcome, for me this production ended somewhat hopefully. Jim hasn’t done anything seriously wrong, and so we cannot blame him. Laura’s end is inevitable, but this production didn’t leave me hopeless or overly pessimistic.

Overall, I thought the production of The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s theatre was truly exceptional. It was deeply sad, beautifully depressing and totally heart-breaking. I absolutely loved it, and I think everyone who has the chance should go and see it.