Black Swan State Theatre Company is bringing Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie to life this August at His Majesty’s Theatre, running from Tuesday, August 2 to Sunday, August 21. Ahead of opening night, MICHAEL HOLLICK caught up with actor Joel Jackson (Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries), who stars as Tom Wingfield, to find out more about the play, his character, and why the writing of Tennessee Williams still feels as relevant and powerful as ever.

What do you think makes The Glass Menagerie such an iconic and universally well-liked play?

I think the play is iconic for a couple of reasons. Firstly, at its core the play is about the nature of humanity, specifically, this idea of humanity where without each other we would be kind of doomed, but we are also each other’s cause of doom. This gives the play a very timeless and universal appeal as it connects directly to people’s emotions.

Then also the play is quite different to other plays; it is super surreal, it comes from memory. As an example, the play starts with my character Tom stating “this is a play.” That is very unique. The set too is also very surreal. There are no doors, just screens and portieres and leaks of light and shadows and in my mind, this makes the set seem to almost float in space.

Speaking of Tom, what can you tell us about his character?

Tom is a young man that is boiling inside. He is a 23-year-old who has been thrust into the position of breadwinner for his family, but internally desires so much more out of life. However, he is all too aware that if he does leave to pursue his desires he will effectively destroy everything that he loves. 

From left to right: Tom O’Halloran, Joel Jackson, Acacia Daken, Jake Fryer-Hornsby and Mandy McElhinney. Photo by Dana Weeks.

What do you think drives Tom in the play?

There is this beautiful line at the end of the play that I think quite accurately describes Tom. The line is, “I attempted to find in motion what was lost in space.” This line really demonstrates how Tom feels lost in the space of life, and how he attempts to correct this by moving through life with a tremendous ferocity and speed to try and touch everything he can. Ultimately though, he struggles to connect to anything. He’s without relation, without meaning.

What do you think it is about Tennessee Williams’ writing that makes his plays so acclaimed?

I feel that his writing is just so personable. You can literally hear his voice off the page. So, when he writes characters, you hear them singing to you and, as an actor, it’s this connection that makes things fun. And when actors enjoy themselves, and they can understand a character and just bleed into that character, it sings for an audience too.

Are you excited that the play is being shown at His Majesty’s?

Definitely. To perform this show in His Majesty’s is so melodramatic, so truthful. I keep imagining the audience sitting in those plush red velvet seats with gold trim, looking into this crappy tenement apartment from the 1930s and the struggle of life. I love this juxtaposition.

What do you hope audiences will take away from this play?

I hope people can walk away, poetically inspired to walk in Tom’s footsteps, or to consider who their choices impact or how to make the next choices for themselves and to go for it.

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