Leaves of Glass

Leaves of Glass


Arcola Theatre

LEAVES OF GLASS at the Park Theatre


Leaves of Glass

“as meaningful a piece of drama as when it was first written”


Lidless Theatre presents a revival of Philip Ridley’s 2007 East End family drama minimally directed by Max Harrison. Played in the round with an acting space restricted by black benches on four sides (Designer Kit Hinchcliffe), it’s a small square to work in but the movement never appears cramped. With audience all around and a mirror glass floor reflecting upwards, the four characters are under examination from all directions.

Excellently lit throughout (Lighting Designer Alex Lewer) the mood is dark and brooding and none better than in the scene almost totally lit by candlelight, highlighting the action whilst emphasising the fears that lurk in the shadows. This atmosphere is heightened during scene changes by a strange and eerie soundscape (Sound Designer Sam Glossop).

Harrison writes in his programme note, that the play is about the elusiveness of memory and how the past can be manipulated to shape our lives. And, in fact, shape the lives of others. The relationship between two brothers is key. A relationship that is tainted by the memory of their pasts. They are both quite clear what they remember. It’s just that what they remember isn’t the same.

Truth is an elusive thing. What is the real reason that Debbie leaves the home and flees to her sister? A fear of rats in the cellar or of domestic abuse? And Liz (Kacey Ainsworth), mother to the two boys, changes her recollections of Barry’s artwork from something she thought hideous to something she remembers as beautiful. Memories are twisted and can’t be trusted.

Smartly dressed with his hair cut short, Steven (Ned Costello) is the elder brother and driving force in the family company. His lips tightly pursed, he is near monosyllabic when forced into conversation, responding to questioning with silence and a distant stare. The same response too when wife Debbie (Katie Buchholz) announces she is expecting their first child. But is Steven the father? Steven paranoically suggests he might not be.

Barry (Joseph Potter) is all that Steven is not. Dressed casually, hair flying free, he bounds with energy, a wildness lying behind his eyes. If Steven retains self-control, a coiled spring held in check, then Barry is that coil let go, a free spirit. If Steven’s languid articulation seems like something is being left unsaid, then Barry might suggest it is because his brother is repressing something unsavoury.

The cast of four are excellent together. Only the estuary vowels of the four Londoners, Liz particularly, close a little too near to soap opera at times.

This work is as meaningful a piece of drama as when it was first written. With its hints of shocking secrets that the family are unable to voice out loud, this production brings to the fore taboos of modern society that need to be shouted out loud.


Reviewed on 15th May 2023

by Phillip Money

Photography by Mark Senior


Previously reviewed at this venue:


The Beach House | ★★★ | February 2023
Winner’s Curse | ★★★★ | February 2023
The Elephant Song | ★★★★ | January 2023
Rumpelstiltskin | ★★★★★ | December 2022
Wickies | ★★★ | December 2022
Pickle | ★★★ | November 2022
A Single Man | ★★★★ | October 2022
Monster | ★★★★★ | August 2022
The End of the Night | ★★ | May 2022
Another America | ★★★ | April 2022


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