Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Solid telling of a fragile tale

The  happy Highbury team with a worrying play. Director Rob Phillips (centre) wirh Oliver Leonard, Mark Nattrass, Elena Serafinas and Kirsten Farrell. 

The Glass Menagerie

Highbury Theatre Centre

Sutton Coldfield


ROB PHILLIPS'S studio production of this Tennessee Williams classic from 1944 is one that tests the miming skills of the company and the imagination of the audience.

The only props it employs are cigarettes, a candelabrum and the collection of little glass animals that feature in the title. As far as everything else is concerned, this is pretend time. Patrons are required to visualise newspapers, wineglasses, pillows, chewing gum, photographs, cutlery, plates, a meal, a telephone, a tablecloth, a pen and the door – to name a few examples.

In the circumstances, it seemed a shame that all those little ornaments are disported so obviously: I would have loved to have told you that there is also an imaginary menagerie – especially as it is so difficult to mention if there's a Thursday in the week.


This is a venture that draws excellent performances from its cast of four. The menagerie belongs to Laura, heartwarmingly depicted by Kirsten Farrell as the introverted, painfully shy young woman who has inevitably missed out on the “gentlemen callers” whom her mother is stridently desperate for her to meet.

Mother is Elena Serafinas – splendidly assertive, making full use of that voice of hers, especially in a high-decibel confrontation with Tom, Laura's brother, confidently played by Oliver Leonard as he demonstrates that he is not prepared to go down without a fight.

Mark Nattrass is Jim, the man who was a schoolboy hero of his peers, among whom were Tom and Laura. Tom introduces him to Mother and Laura – who lost her heart to him at school but of course did not let him suspect a thing.

When he and Laura are left alone, we see her coming gently, painfully, out of her shell, while he evinces the tenderness that is needed to help her on a difficult path to face a man for whom her feelings are as strong as ever. This is a difficult scene, one that cannot be rushed. It is beautifully played and it strings us along, haplessly hooked as we wait in hope for the happy ending. To 26-02-11

John Slim 

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