At semi-autobiographical root, it’s a sad, simple, lyrical story of a restless, frustrated young man who follows in his long-absent father’s footsteps and runs away from home. The sting in the tale is that Tom Wingfield’s escape from a dead-end job and entombing family-life is curtailed by the tethers of conscience. He’s haunted by thoughts of the fragile, hard-up women he abandoned: his faded Southern belle mother Amanda and crippled sister Laura.
That haunting happens before our eyes. This is a memory play. As Tom announces at the start, looking back on his life and laying bare the theatrical artifice that will yield the truth: “Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic”. Its title alluding to the (highly symbolic) collection of glass animals that the incurably shy, lame Laura tends to in their gloomy St Louis apartment, The Glass Menagerie therefore calls for a mixture of delicacy and experimental daring. In his mesmerising revival at the Nuffield, Southampton, these are qualities director Samuel Hodges displays in instructive abundance.