Selwyn Theatre, Kohimarama, Auckland

18/05/2013 - 08/06/2013

Production Details

Antonia Prebble joins Elizabeth Hawthorne for the PwC Season of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie Selwyn Theatre in Kohimarama from May 16. 

Due to the recent fire at Maidment Theatre, Auckland Theatre Company has moved the production to Selwyn theatre and postponed its opening by a week.

Prebble has returned home to New Zealand especially for the PwC Season of The Glass Menagerie from the US where she has been based recently and will depart again when the final curtain comes down on the show.

Disruptions during a Tennessee Williams show are nothing new to Auckland Theatre doyen Elizabeth Hawthorne. In 1992 she was performing in The Rose Tattoo alongside Kevin Smith and Sarah Pierse when the Mercury Theatre collapsed. Her other performances in Tennessee Williams, A Street Car Names Desire and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, have both gone on without a hitch, however.

“Intense, engrossing and riveting.”- San Francisco Chronicle

Awarded Best Play in 1945 by the New York Drama Critics’ Circle and acclaimed as Williams’s first great Broadway success, this emotionally devastating portrait of hope, glitters and reflects with a delicacy and beauty that will fix your gaze and move you to tears.

1930’s St Louis. Aspiring poet Tom Wingfield reluctantly works in a shoe warehouse to support his overbearing, faded-Southern-belle mother and desperately shy sister, Laura. Pushed by his mother, he finds Laura a gentleman caller to try to coax her from her fragile private world. This re-imagined modern classic directed by American guest director, Jef Hall-Flavin, Executive Director of the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, is not to be missed.

The Glass Menagerie is Tennessee Williams’ first great masterpiece and perhaps most autobiographical play. I’m thrilled that this production combines the talents of the fabulous Elizabeth Hawthorne and American guest director, Jef Hall-Flavin to bring to life this hauntingly beautiful work.” – Colin McColl

“Fiercely moving and seriously funny… The bite of the humor disarms and delights.” – New York Times

Finding a new venue for the PwC Season of The Glass Menagerie proved to be a very difficult and frustrating process. Auckland Theatre Company viewed over thirty possible spaces across the city from theatres to warehouse spaces. All of which presented their own unique charms and challenges – not least of which was a period of 5 weeks of uninterrupted availability with comfortable seats and great sight lines.

A decision about the venue for the last two productions that were to have staged at Maidment Theatre, The Heretic and The Lion Foundation Season of Lord of the Flies will be made shortly. The Company is endeavouring to locate a central city space which can be used for both productions with the same season dates.

Tickets for all three shows can be booked from or 09 309 2383

The PwC Season of The Glass Menagerie
By Tennessee Williams
Selwyn Theatre, Kohimarama
May 16 – June 8

Potency and beauty

Review by Gilbert Wong 20th May 2013

If theatre is an illusion of reality then that truism is embedded in the DNA of this respectful production. It’s the 1930s. Depression and imminent war mean America will become a much darker place. A foghorn sounds as the conflicted Tom Wingfield (Edwin Wright) sits in the shadows. “I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”

On an adept set by John Parker crates, sit a few pieces of furniture, a dining table, a Victrola and sofa and a small counter with tiny glass animals held safe and frozen, like the characters, under a series of small glass domes. Stacks of wooden crates, spotlighted with phrases, as Williams wanted, remind us of figures kept in storage, rendered from memory. [More]


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A precious piece

Review by Matt Baker 20th May 2013

The Glass Menagerie is a magical play. From the opening Brechtian monologue, to the blatant symbolism and dialogue surrounding the titular menagerie, playwright Tennessee Williams does not shy away from using a light theatrical shroud to expose truths. It would be easy to rely on these conventions and consequentially not find the true weight in his writing, but Auckland Theatre Company’s production of The Glass Menagerie is a beautiful blend.

Edwin Wright sets a wonderful pace for the play and continues to push through with a strong internal drive. He also finds a great amount of humour in Tom’s sardonic wit. Once the trap is set and Amanda really has something to play with, Elizabeth Hawthorne shines with total southern abandon. Hawthorne finds all the colours and tones to her vocals, and turns her words to flesh, a reminder to all actors that, according to Peter O’Toole, eighty percent of what an actor does is with their voice. [More


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Brilliant interpretation of an American masterpiece

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 20th May 2013

The journey to an unfamiliar venue is abundantly rewarded in ATC’s brilliant interpretation of one of the masterworks of American literature. 

Tennessee Williams’ vision is carried by the simplest of storylines that turns on a dinner party given by a faded Southern belle hoping to lure an outsider into marrying her damaged daughter. [More]


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Excellence with some anomalous elements

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 19th May 2013

Jef Hall-Flavin directs his talented cast with detailed elegance and great care, as an assured team of creatives make positive use of the wider stage and setting of The Glass Menagerie’s unanticipated venue, The Selwyn Theatre.

Edwin Wright’s Tom Wingfield is astutely judged, revealing just the right amount of burden and frustration, quietly simmering in the prologue, building into inevitable outburst and drunkenness. Wright plays him with excellent conviction throughout, as Tom struggles more and more to keep it together in his closeted life. 

Richard Knowles takes full advantage of the hope and optimism for a brighter future that Tennessee Williams injects into Jim O’Connor, delivering an intelligent portrayal of the likable, yet slightly too enthusiastic man.

It is easy to be draw into Antonia Prebble’s achingly timid and awkward Laura Wingfield. Her performance is captivating, as she tip-toes on egg shells around her mother, then relaxes in the comfort of her loving sibling Tom, then slowly overcomes her painful shyness enough to finally dialogue with her gentleman caller, Jim. Prebble and Knowles are particularly engaging together, as he finishes sentences for her, and she says so much with a simple well timed, “oh”. It is simply a wonderful scene. 

Elizabeth Hawthorne as faded Southern Belle and overbearing mother, Amanda Wingfield, is right at home in the role, missing no opportunity to control, dominate and relish the limelight. It is a finely formed and impressive performance, from the start. 

John Parker’s revolving set design captures the cramped conditions of the Wingfield’s apartment, yet the changing angles allow us a variety of interesting perspectives into the singular space. With his palette of faded beige and sepia, Parker also captures the confusion, depression and lost opportunities that defined so much of America in the 1930s.

Costume designer Elizabeth Whiting adopts similar appropriate tones, then pulls out all the stops with two fabulous frocks, fitting for the all-important occasion of the gentlemen caller. Laura’s baby blue satin dress shows the young lady as innocent, yet divine and Jim’s chartreuse Dick Tracey Suit is wonderfully dapper, yet slightly overstated, just like the recently empowered Jim. Like Amanda herself, her outfit from her hey-days is busy, full of frills, bows and completely overstated. 

Bonnie Burrill’s debut for ATC as Lighting Designer is a triumph. Dappled light, dimly lit corners and long shadows, evoke the jaded daily routine of the Wingfield’s impoverished life, devoid of brightness and colour. She peppers this drab world with simple details that say so much, such as the prism of light created by wannabe-poet Tom, at the top of the show.

While many of Video Designer Simon Barker’s projections are smoothly captivating – such as the bleak factory floor backdrop, and the oversized portrait of the deserting dad (which slowly reduces in appearance then fades in and out of the narrative) – at other times, the projection work is a tad gratuitous. I’m not sure the pre-show projections, which include words and phrases (such as the title of the play) on boxes scattered around stage, add much to the audience’s experience. Perhaps they are supposed to be Tom’s scribbles from the factory floor but personally, they left me more confused than intrigued. In the same way, projections that mirror the narrative exactly, can feel obvious, even redundant. 

Similarly, while much of Adrian Hollay’s very pleasing Sound Design sets mode and scene beautifully – such as the atmospheric audio as we walk in and incidental music throughout – overall, there is so much supporting audio that the text and the performances are seldom allowed to simply speak for themselves. Too much of a good thing?

There are a couple of moments in the overall direction that feel very anomalous to me. First, so much care is taken with the authenticity and style of the furniture and props, such as the transistor radio and gramophone, that I find it odd that the opening meal plus the all-important supper are mimed.

Likewise, with so many audio offerings, even to the point of a pre-recorded cheesy ‘Disney-like’ sound effect when Tom refers to a ‘magic scarf’, it seems very peculiar to therefore direct Tom to provide his own (vocalized) ‘door bell’ when he brings gentleman caller Jim home for supper. 

Put these small personal matters to one side and, overall, this is a stylish production of a timeless Southern classic that is well worth the drive to the Eastern Suburbs.


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