Impact Arts caught up with director Tom Proffitt and producer Darcey Graham to chat about their upcoming play ‘The Glass Menagerie’ at the Nottingham New Theatre, to find out whether they’re remaining true to the direction of Tennessee Williams and how they’ve coped with the challenges of the production.
Can you briefly summarise the plot for us?
Tom: The play follows the memories of Tom Wingfield; a poet forced to work in a shoe factory during the Great Depression to support his emotionally unstable mother Amanda and his sister Laura. It then goes on to explore conflicting notions about dreams and reality when an unanticipated gentleman caller named Jim O’Connor arrives.
‘The Glass Menagerie’ is one of Tennessee Williams’ most famous plays. How does your production stand out?
Darcey: While we have done our best to remain true to Williams’ script, there are some elements in particular we have focused on and tried to bring out; the main one being memory. The lighting plays on this non-naturalistic theme in an otherwise naturalistic play. We want to remind the audience that what they are seeing is Tom’s perspective on events, his memories unlikely to show things exactly as they happened as he, like everyone else, tweaks them to suit his feelings towards his past and his decisions. We also focused a lot on developing the characters, fitting with the character-driven script
Tom: I don’t think our production stands out in as much as it remains incredibly faithful to the play and the design that Williams requests should go with it. Our set very much brings out the intimacy the piece requires to succeed. In that respect, we have been lucky to have the New Theatre auditorium, which being compact, permits the desired level of closeness between the actors and the audience.
What have you found to be the greatest challenge in putting together this play?
Darcey: Keeping track of everything that needs doing. In a given day, I might be buying something for the show, organising meetings with a few people, hunting for props, and designing some aspect of set. There’s a lot of multitasking involved in producing and I’ve had to make a lot of lists and notes to myself to remember the jobs I still need to do.
Tom: The balancing of all four of the character’s very complex personalities, and making them seem relatable. They spend a lot of time changing between being charming, to becoming very angry, to becoming very vulnerable within the course of just one scene, and conveying those changes effectively is paramount to making the show work.
Have your actors had any difficulty mastering the American accent?
Darcey: N0. We’re lucky enough to be working with talented actors and actresses who have all taken the accent in their strides. There have been a few words that have taken some time to perfect in the accent, but they kept all our corrections on board.
Tom: Not really – most of them already had some experience in doing accents before they started. I think the main difficulty was in making sure that they pick up upon the contrasts between the Mississippi dialect of the Southern American accent (which the Wingfields speak) and the Missouri dialect (which the gentleman caller speaks). But as Darcey says, we have such a talented cast, that it didn’t take long for them to learn.
How would you sum up the play in two words?
Darcey: Emotional and real.
Tom: Honest and enduring.
‘The Glass Menagerie’ opens at the Nottingham New Theatre next week on Wednesday 18th March and runs until Saturday 21st March. For more information see here.