You can always tell you are experiencing a masterclass in storytelling when the curtain goes up and you need a moment to recollect your thoughts and feelings. ‘Leaves of Glass’ does exactly that and perfectly portrays how sometimes less is more, how sometimes all it takes is a minimal set with a gripping story to completely enrapture your mind. ‘Leaves of Glass’ is a tense and thought-provoking narrative of memory, manipulation and power, written by master storyteller Philip Ridley. Lidless Theatre and director Max Harrison brings this production to the Hope Mill Theatre for the first time in 16 years. With a small run of performances, it is truly a production not to be missed.
The story follows Steven, an honest and hard working man who takes care of his family, or so he believes. This is until he begins to be accused of an array of unforgivable things by the individuals closest to him. As the storyline develops, we see cracks in the surface which unlocks a whole new world of secrets and manipulation.
The staging is set in the round with only four benches set up in the middle of the stage and the audience surrounding. Whilst this is completely minimalistic, it succeeds in its purpose as the protagonist of our story (Steven) is completely exposed and vulnerable from the outset. For the duration of the production, Steven is consistently on stage and is communicating to the audience his story and the memories that he believes to be true. In different scenes, other members of the cast appear with the addition of different props and it effectively moves the story along.
Ned Costello (Steven) demonstrates that he has completely mastered his craft, as from the outset he considerately and slowly shows characteristics that allow the audience to question whether he is genuine or not. He has the audience gripped right from the start, with the additional help of low lighting and the low rumble of tense music. Mix in the fast paced sequence of scenes and you are dragged into the depths of the plot, watching each scene unravel with increasing intensity and tension until it completely explodes in its climax.
The whole cast must be commended for their valiant performances in what must be a mentally draining story to tell. Exploring a variety of dark and tragic themes, it is clear that each actor bares their soul on the stage. Joseph Potter plays Steven’s brother (Barry) and perfectly encapsulates the devastating long-term effects of experiencing trauma and loss, and how these experiences can negatively impact on mental health. Quickly switching between such intense emotions, he is completely believable and gives such an emotional performance.
Kacey Ainsworth (Steven’s mother) demonstrates throughout the detrimental aftermath of overlooking mental health and not tackling these issues head on, leading to her consistently airing on the edge of hysteria or a nervous breakdown throughout. One pivotal moment in this production for me was how she so quickly adapted her memories as the result of the traumas she faced as a means of self protection. Katie Buchholz (Stephen’s wife) is more subdued, demonstrating complete oblivion and lack of understanding to her husband’s dark and tragic past and the devastating impacts it holds.
Leaves of Glass is a story that perfectly encapsulates how we all have an innate desire to block out or adapt the past that haunts us, and how we choose to ignore the inhumane ways in which we behave in order to survive. At times a heartbreaking and uncomfortable watch, Leaves of Glass makes audiences question the depths they would go to keep their darkest secrets unexposed. It also leads to thoughts of how perception of different situations leads to different emotions and experiences.
Leaves of Glass plays at the Hope Mill Theatre until the 8th July. For more tickets and information, you can follow the link here.
AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | Photography by Mark Senior