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The Glasshouse (Tristan Bates Theatre)

The world premiere of Sebastien Blanc's drama opened earlier this month

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Company of The Glasshouse
© Vincent Rowley

The Tristan Bates Theatre puts on a show that is equal parts harrowing and touching with The Glasshouse, written by fresh talent (and main star) Max Saunders-Singer, and directed by Sebastian Blanc. Visceral and eye-wateringly honest, this First World War-centred tale explores mental illness, honour, fierce patriotism and moral contradictions, and lets the audience witness the slow destruction of each of the characters that we come to know and love.

Using a simple but extremely well-made set and minimal visual effects, it is these characters that guide us through the story, with Moon's (Sam Adamson) slow development as undoubtedly the most heartbreaking, and these unexpected friendships reducing the 'soldiers' back to man and boy. This element is helped by the inclusion of spoken poem, song, a dove and the use of a penny whistle, adding a dimension of innocence and purity to the traumatic scenes that makes the play even more distressing.

Despite slight lulls between the explosive action of each scene, to be expected with such a dialogue-focussed play, these short breaks and discussions of home and family are often used to humanise the characters even further, making the eventual result a touch more devastating.

Just in time for the war's centenary, The Glasshouse accurately evokes the era, with a focus on honour and human nature, with expert acting from Adamson and Saunders-Singer (Pip), and a commanding officer (Simon Nayler) who is surprisingly not demonised nor isolated from the suffering of his two prisoners. An expertly directed and fantastic new play that manages to narrowly avoid becoming a shock value gorefest, The Glasshouse is a poignant and no-frills depiction of war that will undoubtedly leave audiences feeling well and truly shell shocked.

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