Review of ‘Leaves of Glass’: “A brotherhood of treachery”

Philip Ridley’s shattering drama returns to London after its original critically acclaimed run at the Soho Theatre. Guillermo Nazara shares his thoughts on this new production playing at the Park Theatre before embarking on its first tour, to let us know more about this cracked picture of a loving family.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life”. Funnily enough, we don’t listen to such wisdom too often. We break connections with those who care, and stay close to those who hurt us just because that’s how it’s supposed to be – following the rules that others have made for our own paths.

It’s no surprise that Ridley’s writing has made a comeback to the London scene. It has everything a refined audience should be looking for: insight, dare and the crude bluntness stemming from one’s personal truth. Leaves of Glass is unapologetic in its narrative – misleading but direct, convoluted but logical in its own way. And it has every reason to be so. It doesn’t feed from experience, it doesn’t imitate life – it’s actually an extension of them.

Set it in current East London, the play revolves around Steve – a young successful entrepreneur, who’s always endeavored to do the right thing. It appears to have paid off, after all: he runs a successful business, owns a lovely home and is married to an expecting wife. But no matter how elaborate the disguise is, reality manages to pull the mask off and reveal the bold ugliness of a distorted past… and present.

Directed by Philip Ridley, the text’s inherent authenticity is enhanced by the sense of intimacy given by his approach. Featuring minimalist yet extremely suggestive staging (credit to Kit Hinchcliff), the production boosts the script’s ability to create a bystander vibe – constantly encouraging the feeling that we are witnesses for an actual testimony of broken memories and situations.

Such level of veracity is topped off by its cast’s lusciously unsparing take on their roles. Starring Ned Costello as Steve, his subtle though honest performance achieves both high realism and almost instant sympathy from the audience, constructing a part filled with so many flaws that is actually perfect. On the other side, Joseph Potter shows off, once again, his great skills as a character actor, playing Steve’s unstable (though incredibly rational) brother in a more subtle (though still incredibly engaging) manner in comparison to his previous work. On the other hand, both Katie Bulcholz and Kacey Ainsworth give a pivotal rendition as the toxic wife and mother, respectively – both providing their renditions with frankness and the necessary rankness their characters are all about.

Slightly innovative in its recount and featuring an overall nice, correct pacing, Leaves of Glass starts the almost-summer season with an iron clutch – bringing an engaging and surprisingly much relatable account that deeply explores the common weaknesses of human condition. Able to touch our emotions through, however, its analytical power, the play proves, to great extent, that a true moving story does not rely on unrestrained drama, but on unrestrained truth.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

All pictures credit to Mark Senior.

Leaves of Glass plays at London’s Park Theatre until 3 June. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Nazara

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