Tag Archives: Alex Lewer

LEAVES OF GLASS

★★★★

Park Theatre

LEAVES OF GLASS at the Park Theatre

★★★★

“Max Harrison’s staging is beautifully faithful and sympathetic to the writing.”

Memories contain errors. Memory is highly malleable; therefore, often unreliable. It can be altered by emotional state from the very second it becomes a memory. Or many years later. Yet most of us like to think our own recollections are infallible, even when we know we might be twisting it. That’s just survival, according to Philip Ridley who explores these themes in his 2007 play “Leaves of Glass”. The middle episode of his ‘Brothers Trilogy’, it was preceded by ‘Mercury Fur’ and followed by ‘Piranha Heights’.

“Leaves of Glass” centres around two brothers, Steven (Ned Costello) and Barry (Joseph Potter). Five years apart in age, but on the surface, they couldn’t be further apart from each other. Steven runs a successful graffiti removal business while Barry, despite being a bit of a dogsbody in the firm, is a struggling artist. Steven appears to have his head screwed on, whereas Barry’s is lost in drink and hallucinations. Their respective memories of their father, whom they lost at a young age, are on different tracks. Yet there are similarities that bond them. But like similar poles of a magnet, they repel each other. Their mother Liz (Kacey Ainsworth) tentatively holds them together, despite her affections wavering between the two as wildly as her own recollections. The only solid presence is Steven’s pregnant wife Debbie (Katie Eldred) who is aware of the fragility of the family, but her tolerance doesn’t stretch to assuring nothing gets broken.

The intensity of the play comes not just from the spoken word, but the silence that surrounds a traumatic incident from the brothers’ childhood that neither seems willing to talk about. When the silence snaps, the effect is shocking. The pieces come together but nothing fits, as the final battle of memories is like a duel to the death.

“Sam Glossop’s underscore splits the play’s segments like splinters of sound that throw us off balance”

The intensity of the play also undoubtedly comes from the performances. Costello and Potter both capture the inherent danger in Ridley’s script and in their characters. Costello in particular, like a brooding prisoner who never leaves the stage. Neither can escape their version of the truth – a truth that we can only keep guessing about. Eldred’s Debbie, the outsider, is more grounded but not quite strong enough to dodge the fallout from the brothers’ mind games. Ainsworth is a mix of concern and complicity as the mother who inflates her own ability to cope. ‘I’ve buried two parents and a husband’ she continually reminds us, ‘I think I’m capable of carrying some tea and biscuits’. The little hints of domesticity are a thin gauze over the deep cracks that run through this family.

Ridley’s signature is splashed all over the piece, although less shocking, and perhaps more thoughtful, than some of his other work. Max Harrison’s staging is beautifully faithful and sympathetic to the writing. Some scenes are short, like pieces of broken glass. Other scenes start when they are already up and running. They end unresolved. It is discomforting and reflects the unravelling of the minds of these four protagonists. The actors come into the scenes from different angles – as jagged as the eponymous leaves of glass. Alex Lewer’s lighting is just as evocative, swinging from harshness to near darkness like a horror film’s bare light bulb; while Sam Glossop’s underscore splits the play’s segments like splinters of sound that throw us off balance.

It is difficult to tell the difference between a lie and a truth misremembered. This family is built on both – a pretty unstable foundation to begin with. It is not always easy viewing to witness, but the craftmanship of the acting and the writing force us not to look away. Memory may be fragile, but “Leaves of Glass” will be difficult to forget.


LEAVES OF GLASS at the Park Theatre

Reviewed on 25th January 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

KIM’S CONVENIENCE | ★★★★ | January 2024
21 ROUND FOR CHRISTMAS | ★★★★ | December 2023
THE TIME MACHINE – A COMEDY | ★★★★ | December 2023
IKARIA | ★★★★ | November 2023
PASSING | ★★★½ | November 2023
THE INTERVIEW | ★★★ | November 2023
IT’S HEADED STRAIGHT TOWARDS US | ★★★★★ | September 2023
SORRY WE DIDN’T DIE AT SEA | ★★½ | September 2023
THE GARDEN OF WORDS | ★★★ | August 2023
BONES | ★★★★ | July 2023
PAPER CUT | ★★½ | June 2023
LEAVES OF GLASS | ★★★★ | May 2023

LEAVES OF GLASS

LEAVES OF GLASS

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Othello at the Riverside Studios

Othello

★★★★

Riverside Studios

OTHELLO at the Riverside Studios

★★★★

Othello at the Riverside Studios

“the interpretation is a quick-fire and vibrant rendition”

This new take on Shakespeare’s tragedy of race and jealousy comes with quite the twist: the role of Iago is played by three different actors simultaneously. The first question that comes to mind is, why? One has to suppress the faint rising wave of scepticism as the auditorium fills up around us. There is no set whatsoever, and the feeling that this might be some sort of drama exercise is foremost in our minds. It doesn’t take long, however, for this trepidation to be completely eradicated by Sinéad Rushe’s fresh take on the play.

Even without the added theatrical device (which they term polyphonic characterisation), the interpretation is a quick-fire and vibrant rendition. The empty playing space allows us to focus on the performances which are uniformly strong among this small company. With a finely honed physicality and harmony within the cast, no backdrop is needed and, indeed, with the clear-cut pruning of the text no background is needed – such is the clarity and succinctness of the delivery.

The cast are huddled around an acoustic guitar, their own bodies percussion instruments; from which Desdemona (Rose Riley) breaks away and dances unrestrained around the space. An atmospheric opening, but the one (and only) time we do question the dramatic choices.

From the off, Martins Imhangbe is an impressive and imposing Othello. His strong demeanour is quietly controlled, sometimes a touch too soft and vulnerable, before the bemused rage finally breaks through. Riley breaks away from the stereotypical Desdemona, refusing to come across as pure and meek. Instead she is self-possessed but respectful of Othello despite the incomprehensibility of his jealousy, almost to the point of tenderness. Her rendition of the “Willow” song is particularly poignant and beautifully sung. Ryan O’Doherty is a charismatic Cassio, a bit of an enigma, keeping his true feelings under wraps beneath a trusting exterior. Not so Emilia, Iago’s wife, whose distrust and fiery outspoken cynicism is brought to vivid life in Rachel-Leah Hosker’s striking performance.

“This is a show where atmosphere is predominant”

Which brings us to Iago, and the focal point of the production. During the performance, though, the reasoning is immaterial. It ceases to be a question as it works so well dramatically. Michael C. Fox, Orlando James and Jeremy Neumark Jones are all exceptional. Individual, yet merging into one character; they are both a chorus and a trio of separate characters. They become co-conspirators, negotiating among themselves. They surround their victims, sometimes in whispers, sometimes in storms. The effect is often chilling as one man’s voice can be heard echoing in triplicate from three different spaces. Iago no longer addresses the audience, which in turn increases the impact. It is a complex and risky scenario, but in the three actors’ hands it is pulled off to immense effect.

The threatening and menacing atmosphere is sustained throughout by Ali Taie’s percussive and sinister soundscape, along with Alex Lewer’s starkly effective lighting. This is a show where atmosphere is predominant, even though we are invited also to consider the racial and political reasoning behind Rushe’s choice of the three Iago’s. Traditionally Iago draws the audience in and coerces them into being complicit in Othello’s downfall. This is no longer the case. Yes, we are aware of the device but not on an intellectual level. It is a thrillingly innovative approach, but we are so wrapped up in the performances that we forgo analysis in favour of relishing each moment, right up to the tragic and, in this production, quite plaintive ending.

 


OTHELLO at the Riverside Studios

Reviewed on 6th October 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Douet

 

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

Flowers For Mrs Harris | ★★★★ | October 2023
Run to the Nuns – The Musical | ★★★★ | July 2023
The Sun Will Rise | ★★★ | July 2023
Tarantino Live: Fox Force Five & The Tyranny Of Evil Men | ★★★★★ | June 2023
Killing The Cat | ★★ | March 2023
Cirque Berserk! | ★★★★★ | February 2023
David Copperfield | ★★★ | February 2023
A Level Playing Field | ★★★★ | February 2022
The Devil’s in the Chair | ★★★★ | February 2022

Othello

Othello

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