Leaves of Glass - Park Theatre
Philip Ridley’s play is revived at The Park Theatre
Bathed in self-preservation, the family at the centre of Ridley’s play are willing to forgive and forget all to preserve the status quo. The twisted characters manipulate the story choosing to leave the truth marooned and unimportant, gaslighting themselves to prevent the resurfacing of their uncomfortable and troubled pasts. With fantastic performances, this is a deliberately uneasy watch.
Steven is a family man. He cares for his wife, ensuring she does not go wanting and has always doted on his mother, especially since the loss of his father many years ago. He runs a successful graffiti removal business in East London where he employs his younger brother when others won’t - in part due to Barry's years of alcoholism and unstable mental health.
Staged in the smaller of the two spaces at The Park Theatre, this revival leaves no space to hide as the characters’ vulnerabilities are hung out to dry, striding willingly into the straining tension that exists between them. Initially, it is Steven who is consistently undermined, seemingly determined to do right whilst his family frustrate his reality. It is only later that he starts to use these tactics for his own means.
Ned Costello is strong as Steven, crafting a slow descent as the words and events steadily cut away at his character. With Joseph Potter (Barry) the pair excel, reverting to their childish selves when in close proximity. Pinpoint attacks exchange between the brothers as bottled-up toxicity risks bursting outwards. Potter enjoys an almost parallel journey to Costello, rising upwards from the floor with a furious intensity that is a marvel to witness.
The matriarchal figure of Liz, portrayed by Kacey Ainsworth, demonstrates where the boys have inherited their tactics. Despite “burying two parents and a husband,” she is quietly cutthroat and ruthless, shaping the narrative to avoid embarrassment or calamity - a commanding performance from Ainsworth. Completing the cast is Katie Buchholz as Steven’s wife Debbie, who wastes no time in crippling his sanity through her version of the truth.
The meandering narrative forces audiences to question how we perceive events and how our truth differs from those around us - a fascinating concept heightened by an unfurling plot that is both deeply unsettling and thrilling. There is space to push this further as the pace leaks marginally in the latter third, but this is a well-worked revival of a challenging and unrelenting piece of theatre.
Running until 3 June - Tickets
Photography - Mark Senior