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Our Glass House

Common Wealth Theatre's site-specific play exploring domestic abuse opened in Camden last week

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Balvinder Sopal as Sufiya
© Robert Ormerod

Stand in the hallway of a nondescript Camden house and you'll hear the soft rustlings of women and men tensely waiting for their partners.

Our Glass House is an often atmospheric, sometimes chilling recreation of what life is like for those who experience domestic abuse every day. Free to wander around the rooms as you please, each one holds a victim.

Based on interviews with real men and women who suffered, we see it can happen to anyone: elderly Helen (Cynthia Whelan) in pearls with a spotless front room, the tormented father (Dave Hart) whose wife opens the car door when he's driving, Asian mum Sufiya preparing dinner, a heavily pregnant woman obsessively cleaning the kitchen.

Director Evie Manning conjures truly shocking moments such as Kayleigh's (Cerise Reid) nasty bathroom scene which really get under the skin and I felt tears welling as I stood at the top of the stairs straining to hear a young boy's touching wishes for a future without family tension.

There are clever set pieces, from a piano on the ceiling to kitchen bunting made of dusters, and tension is ramped up by the live musician in the pantry. The support on offer for the audience at the end of the show is another point in favour of the Common Wealth Theatre team.

Sadly sometimes - despite advice before the show begins for the audience to mind blocking doorways - it's tricky to see what's happening and I missed what sounded to be a cathartic finale.

This isn't a slight piece of drama but with fewer moments of nothing - some of the pregnant silences were genuinely taut, while others were just empty - the show would be even weightier.