From Wentworth’s Freak to heart of Tennessee Williams’ fragile clan

A towering dramatic presence brings a fresh perspective to a classic take on family dynamics.

Wentworth Prison governor Joan Ferguson is a large and intimidating character. She wields her power over prisoners and corrections staff through manipulation and fear, much of it expressed in her looming physical form.

Amanda Wingfield, by contrast, is described as a little woman, but powerful. Tennessee Williams writes in his directions for The Glass Menagerie that while the character of Amanda is unwittingly cruel at times, she has some tenderness “in her slight person”.

“A little bird-like thing?” Pamela Rabe laughs, for she plays both Amanda and Joan.

Anyone who has seen Rabe in the television series Wentworth as the psychopathic “Freak” Ferguson towering over co-star Kate Atkinson– far more bird-like as Vera “Vinegar Tits” Bennett– will think some terrible miscasting has gone on for The Glass Menagerie.

Wrong: it is a clever strategy on the part of director Eamon Flack. Casting Rabe is entirely consistent with envisaging the grand emotion and dramatic presence of Amanda, once a “flouncing Southern belle”, as Rabe describes this central, imposing character. (more…)

Continue ReadingFrom Wentworth’s Freak to heart of Tennessee Williams’ fragile clan