Leaves of Glass at Park Theatre
After an acclaimed 2007 premier run at the Soho Theatre and subsequent 16-year hiatus, Philip Ridley’s play, Leaves of Glass, returns to the stage at Park Theatre in a revival directed by Max Harrison. Joseph Potter (winner of the Best Solo Performer OFFIE Award for his performance in Ridley‘s The Poltergeist), Ned Costello (The Clothes They Stood up In), Geraldine Alexander (Bridgerton), and Kate Buchholz (The Seagull) star in this revival, directed by Max Harrison, with set and costume design by Kit Hinchcliffe and sound design by Sam Glossop.
The action is contained on-stage between four moveable black benches with minimal props beneath Alex Lewer’s understated lighting. The cast helming Ridley’s four-hander are a collective force to be reckoned with, who bring alive Park Theatre’s intimate in-the-round staging. The frenetic rhythm established by Costello and Potter nails the synchronicities of the antagonistic relationship that can only exist between siblings: Steven is the family martyr, employing the flighty Barry when he can’t hold down a job; Potter’s Barry, a troubled but transparent artist, possesses a frantic, self-abnegating character interspersed with an endearing lyricism in his artistic observations and alcohol-fuelled hallucinations.
Steven’s minimally scored soliloquies provide snapshots of their youth and recollections of their oft alluded to, long-deceased father, a most ominous presence that the brothers and their mother navigate in conflicting and evasive memories. Steven recalls his promise that he “won’t tell anyone what you did to me, Dad – our secret”, and this unspoken trauma is circled by the brothers in their every interaction, constantly suggesting a shared something that they have spent their entire lives avoiding putting into words. Costello does well to work Steven’s resentment into his ambivalence towards his wife, Debbie, whose caustic tongue and commanding presence serve to cut through his evasions and distracted nature, and the childish taunts with which he baits Barry in their final devastating confrontation. Barry’s tortured character emerges as the driving force for confronting his family’s misremembering, their evasions, their comforting half-truths, with the steadily mounting animosity between Barry and Steve culminating in an explosive scene in Steven’s cellar, where Steven is hiding in the darkness, the lightbulb extinguished and removed from the light fixture: “You can’t see the shadows in the dark.”
A turbulent character study of trauma and the deceptions families weave to survive them, Leaves of Glass captivates and provokes, exploring the ever-universal behaviours that we rely on to obscure what haunts us.
Photo: Mark Senior
Leaves of Glass is at Park Theatre from 15th May until 3rd June 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.