The Glass Imaginary offers not just one, but a brand new improvised play each afternoon, inspired by the works of Tennessee Williams. Considered one of the greatest American playwrights of the 20th century, his intimate, dark dramatic tales explore family relationships, unrequited love and marriage: ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, ‘A Streetcar named Desire’ and ‘The Glass Menagerie’ et al. As a repressed gay man, unable to present openly gay characters, strong female roles reflected his personal emotions, ideas of sexual hedonism, restlessness and love of illusion.
As each show is completely improvised, this review covers one stand-alone play. The audience is first asked to offer a personal memory of a family possession and a girl quickly suggests her grandmother’s sewing machine. This is the starting point for the ensemble of five actors to improvise the characters and develop a storyline.
Wearing a cool, crisp cream linen suit, Jon Nguyen first acts as a narrator, painting a picture of the setting, Ashton, a slow sleepy Southern town and Louann and James’s apartment, where they lie on a double bed, chatting about his work, “striving, toiling” for promotion. She promises to make chicken pie for dinner. Moving to a garment factory, two women are busy making trousers, ‘sew it in a straight line’ Eloise advises Jenny, who then confides that she had been out on a date with George, a new gentleman caller. “I do not blush, it’s the heat of the sun,” she flusters, embarrassed by her secret affair.
And so the drama is gradually unveiled, scene by scene from cocktail bar to dinner party. As the narrator advises, we should watch facial expressions – what people say is not always the truth in their eyes. When the quietly timid Eloise offers to help James fix more drinks, she's not just being polite but revealing her seductive feminine charm, instantly reminiscent of Blanche DuBois, chasing after Stanley like a dangerous femme fatale.
In ‘The Glass Imaginary’ we delve into a fresh and totally re-imagined world of Tennessee Williams: the authentic leisurely manner and mode, deep drawl of the Southern accent and languidly lyrical language, all eloquently performed with colourfully dramatic insight and atmospheric vision.
Against the sultry jazz on the soundtrack, this is an intimate, dreamlike dance between these enigmatic characters each with their own hidden uncertainties, mysteries and doubts – but all with passion in their hearts.
“What I am writing about is human nature. ... human relations are terrifyingly ambiguous.” Tennessee Williams
5-13, 15-20, 22-27 August @ 1500
Ticket prices: £12.00 (£10.00)