Leaves of Glass

“Sharp, tense and unforgettable.  Theatre at its best"

Following its critically acclaimed run at Soho Theatre in 2007, Lidless Theatre presents a new production of Leaves of Glass, regarded as a ‘modern classic’, 16 years from its premiere performance, does it live up to its reputation?

On arrival, we are introduced to the fantastic sound design by Sam Glossop with a soundscape of a glass harp playing; this is very easy on the ears in juxtaposition of the cold blue light hanging over the simplistic set.

Based in East London, 2023, the plot tells the complex story of brothers, Steven (Ned Costello) and Barry (Joseph Potter) with supporting characters Liz, their mother (Kacey Ainsworth) and Debbie, Steven’s wife (Katie Buchholz). Steven is a married business owner whilst Barry is a recovering alcoholic who aspires to be an artist. Throughout, we are told one story, through multiple perspectives, which entangles the audience in twists and turns aplenty.

In the first scene, the audience is invited in on the action, breaking fourth wall and speaking to the audience like an old friend. This is expertly directed by Max Harrison and makes the audience feel in safe hands by Ned Costello.

Set and costume design by Kit Hinchcliffe is simple but used to maximum effect. A theme throughout the play is the contrast between Steven and Barry. Steven wears a formal shirt, trousers and smart shoes whilst Barry wears battered Converse and a ripped t-shirt. As the plot advances and Steven unravels, small changes in his costume allow us a glimpse into his spiralling mindset, rolling up the sleeves and untucking the shirt. 

Equally, the set consists of four benches set in extreme proximity to the audience. This emphasises the claustrophobic nature of the family dynamic and is aided effortlessly by the compact space at Hope Mill Theatre. The stage starts clean and reflective, though cracks begin to show as the plot deepens, gradually becoming dirty and scuffed, a nod to the character’s mindset.

Without a doubt, this is a stellar cast. Costello (who doesn’t leave the stage for the entire 1 hour and 45-minute runtime) is a natural storyteller. Through small nuances in his body language, he sets the scene and time perfectly. He commands the stage throughout and shows the intensity of Steven with his closed posture and distant gaze.

Potter equally brings a complex intensity to his portrayal of Barry, whilst still having a direct contrast to Steven. It could be quite easy to ham up this part into a caricature due to its erratic nature, but Potter brings a believable take to a difficult role.

Light comic relief is brought by Ainsworth who in her opening scene is reminiscent of a sketch from The Catherine Tate Show. As the character peels away, we are shown an impressive, layered performance by Ainsworth.

It is easy to see how Philip Ridley has garnered a reputation for leaving audiences bewildered but in the very best way. Going against the norm with fragmented scenes, I was unsure how the piece would flow, however, just like our own memories are fragmented, this allows the audience to relate to the characters mindset.

With sharp dialogue and outstanding performances, this is an unforgettable and tense night at the theatre I urge you not to miss.

This show was reviewed on the 3rd July 2023.  Leaves of Glass plays at Hope Mill Theatre until July 8th.  Tickets available here: Leaves of Glass – Hope Mill Theatre

Review written by Lee Gregory


Photo credit: Mark Senior

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