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Leaves of Glass (Bristol)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Take an apparently normal modern family with the usual mundane domestic problems – younger brother an alcoholic, young wife newly pregnant and elderly mother losing the plot – and watch it all unravel before your eyes. This poignant though powerful drama by Philip Ridley will make you stop and take stock of all you see around you.

Steven, played by Michael Fox, appears as the successful businessman holding the family together and looking after his vulnerable and disturbed younger brother Barry (Chris Levens). Their Mother - Liz - played by Judith Haley locks herself away in her own little world and refuses to see the disintegration of her family. Steven’s young, newly pregnant wife Debbie – (Madeleine Havell - completes the cast.

As the play progresses we see the façade of normality being gradually stripped away as the family member are forced to confront the secrets of their past. We see them facing events which have been tucked away, never mentioned and certainly never dealt with. We see how much their present lives and behaviour are affected by past events.

The play, beautifully and sensitively directed by Sian Henderson and Max Boon, is by Room One Productions - a young Bristol based Theatre Company known to perform powerful and poignant contemporary plays. The narrative is never allowed to become maudlin and maintains a good pace.

The set designed by Tessa Battisti is simple yet powerful and the back stage crew and cast perform the changes efficiently and seamlessly so that they never interfered with the progress of the play. The excellent cast hold the stage from start to finish. You are made to feel their pain, their suffering and can even sympathise with their desire to shut everything away. Michael Fox gives a powerful performance – his character having to take on the weight of family responsibilities. Chris Levens’ portrayal of Barry is also exceptional, and makes the audience feel his pain and confusion, whilst also glimpsing his vision of the beauty he sees in the simple things around him. Judith Haley and Madeleine Havell, though with less to do, provide excellent support.

Leaves of Glass is perhaps less oviously violent in nature than some of author Philip Ridley’s other works, it depicts the inner violence and anguish inside this broken family.

All in all a thought provoking and moving theatre trip.


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