Tag Archives: Geraldine Somerville



Alexandra Palace Theatre

THE GLASS MENAGERIE at Alexandra Palace Theatre


“haunting and dynamic”

Against the backdrop of arrested decay in the Alexandra Palace theatre blares a rotating neon sign reading “PARADISE”. The shiny circular stage is decorated around the edges with the eponymous glass menagerie and later with added candles and flowers (Rosanna Vize). As the scenes progress the sign turns like a clock hand; the threat of lost time looming over the characters. Tennessee William’s memory play is set in the 1930s, in this production, the cast adopt modern costumes and props to illuminating effect as the family drama is grounded in a more recent era. The scenes are underscored with eery instrumentals (Giles Thomas) and characters make use of two microphones on stands to emphasis the overwhelming nature of their conversations as the family suffocate each other with words. Echoing the turn of the sign, the company move around cyclically (movement Anthony Missen) winding on and off the stage as they orbit each other. With every entrance and exit comes the risk of breaking a glass animal, implying the precarious circumstances of the family.

The Wingfield family consist of a resentful writer and narrator Tom (Kasper Hilton-Hille), his histrionic mother Amanda (Geraldine Somerville) and anxiety-ridden sister Laura (Natalie Kimmerling). The play follows the family navigating financial strain, familial roles and desperation to secure stability in their lives. Amanda places her hope in the prospect of getting Laura married after she drops out of a business course due to her anxiety. Tom loses himself by writing poems and going to the movies and argues with his mother over money and craving independence. Jim O’Conner (Zacchaeus Kayode) joins the play more in Act Two as a colleague of Tom and former high school crush of Laura.

Somerville depicts Amanda with a multi-layered performance with humour and dignity, never adopting a shrill tone or overly manic demeanour. She is berating and materialistic, but cares deeply for Laura and Tom and attempts to pre-empt and solve problems. She is overbearing but also earnestly helps Laura pursue independence and happiness. She worries reasonably about Tom’s nightly escapes but ultimately has outbursts that alienate her children. Kimmerling presents Laura as a kind ostracised young woman, dogged by onsets of panic and insecurity. Her journey shows her sociable abilities and emotional intelligence, as well as her fragility and internal torment. Her performance is beautifully moving and the relationship between the siblings is touching. Watching her get so close to happiness but not quite achieve it is sad, but what makes the story tragic is her inability to emotionally recover from the setbacks in her life. Hilton-Hille captures Tom’s adolescent frustration and solemn reflection as he recounts his life. The growing conflict with his mother are balanced with his concern for Laura. In Act Two Kayode portrays the perfect man in Jim; empathic and charismatic, but also nostalgic and pathologising. He finds Laura intriguing and intelligent, but flawed. He offers her advice and ruminates on resilience; “everybody’s got problems”. Director Atri Banerjee bring outs the fun and joy of their would-be romance with dancing and music, leaving the audience wanting Laura to believe in love and more.

The family dynamic is captured through movement as they weave around the glowing “PARADISE” focal point above accompanied by dramatic backlights and dimly lit candles (Lee Curran). The drama’s intensity is heightened by the large performance space, creating a sense of loneliness and magnitude, with characters entering and exiting into the upstage void. The direction is slick, focusing on the intention of the conversations rather than fixating on the setting. This production of Glass Menagerie is haunting and dynamic, with each turn of the fluorescent sign pushing the family to the brink.

THE GLASS MENAGERIE at Alexandra Palace Theatre

Reviewed on 23rd May 2024

by Jessica Potts

Photography by Marc Brenner




Previously reviewed at this venue:

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: A GHOST STORY | ★★★★ | November 2023
BUGSY MALONE | ★★★★★ | December 2022
TREASON THE MUSICAL | ★★★ | November 2023



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Checkpoint Chana – 4 Stars


Checkpoint Chana

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 5th March 2018


“Somerville’s command of the stage is exemplary and brings an added intensity to an already complex terrain”


Stepping into the intimate and distinguished Finborough Theatre, we are immediately transported to the milieu of poet Bev Hemmings, under public scrutiny for an apparently anti-Semitic comparison in a recent poem. Jeff Page’s ‘Checkpoint Chana’ not only questions the grey area between pro-Palestinian criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism but also manages to emphasise the creative questions of self-expression and individual interpretation within sensitive boundaries.

Before the play begins, Daisy Blower’s artfully designed room, scattered with carefully selected props and evocative seventies music do more than simply set the scene; the details cleverly hint at the poet’s past and paint a picture of the seemingly carefree, bohemian life she leads. The lighting (Jamie Platt), subtly used throughout the play to intensify but not intrude, adds a warm, comfortable glow.

Out of this evolves the agony of being misunderstood and fear of losing everything, with a brilliant performance by Geraldine Somerville as Bev, whose emotions sway from disbelief to anger, frustration and resignation, deepened by the guilty grief over her dying father. Her command of the stage is exemplary and brings an added intensity to an already complex terrain. Ulrika Krishnamurti (Tamsin) portrays Bev’s PA who has the difficult job of persuading her to apologise as well as managing her erratic behaviour. However, her youth and the strength of her personality show as nervous earnestness which consequently depicts a detached working relationship, lacking plausible closeness, rather than a strong, familiar bond built up over the years. David, played by Matt Mella, the journalist prepared to help with the recovery of Bev’s reputation, surprises us with his twists of character and a moving account of painful memories. Nathaniel Wade is excellent as Michael, establishing an identity from the moment he appears, and building a rapport with the poet from very little interaction.

The script is an interesting comment on tiptoeing around political correctness by doing just that. With a pointedly politically-correct cast it lays down the various opinions as a debate with no conclusion, as opposed to a standpoint. Apart from a few unneeded jokes the drama works well as layers of complication thicken the argument. Director, Manuel Bau, concentrates on the trauma Bev is going through, leaving the changes of scene as subtle as possible and showing how one wrong step could turn her world about.

Thoughtful writing, a beautifully detailed set and some powerful performances make this a compelling production intellectually, aesthetically and emotionally.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington 

Photography by Samuel Kirkman


Checkpoint Chana

Finborough Theatre until 20th March



Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com