Tag Archives: Alex Lewer

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


Click here to read all our latest reviews


Striking 12

Union Theatre

Striking 12

Striking 12

Union Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd December 2018


“tells a festive story with a hilarious mix of cheer and cynicism”


It’s New Year’s Eve and Brendan is working late. Dejected and bored, he is in no mood to celebrate but a chance encounter with a girl changes everything. Striking 12 is a warm and funny retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl. Set in modern New York, this production has updated the classic fairy tale with a sweetness that does not lose the touching sadness of the original story.

Declan Bennett and Bronté Barbé do a good job as the titular characters Brendan and the Match Girl. Barbé plays the vulnerable fairy tale Match Girl as well as the modernised one who sells Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamps instead of matches. This may seem like a bizarre way to update the story, but it works well to paint a picture of Brendan as an overworked bah-humbug New Yorker. With exposed brick walls, malleable staging and use of vintage lighting, the Union Theatre is also a wonderful space for a show set in New York. The use of matchboxes as tickets and matches on stage was also a great added touch.

Along with the talented Andrew Linnie on piano, Kate Robson-Stuart and Leon Scott brilliantly switch between acting and playing multiple instruments to infuse the story with perfect comedic timing. There are some fantastic numbers, particularly ‘Matches for Sale’ and its reprise in ‘Say What?’ Put together, the songs tell the story of The Little Match Girl, and then self-consciously play with what a modernised version of the story would look like. In doing so, Oliver Kaderbhai’s careful direction blends the tenderness of the fairy tale with modern wit. The show’s real magic is held in the hands of Danielle Kassaraté whose Narrator is effortlessly charismatic, adding some fantastic moments of empathy and humour.

This is a tight performance that strikes the right tone throughout. Without falling into the trap of irritating unwarranted optimism that so often taints musicals at this time of year, Striking 12 tells a festive story with a hilarious mix of cheer and cynicism. It will end the year with a lovely, simple message: that sharing some sincere festive spirit can make us less sad, and failing that, there’s SAD lamps.


Reviewed by Tatjana Damjanovic

Photography by Tom Grace


Striking 12

Union Theatre until 23rd December


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Heartbreak House | ★★★★ | January 2018
Carmen 1808 | ★★★★★ | February 2018
The Cherry Orchard | ★★★★ | March 2018
Twang!! | ★★★★ | April 2018
H.R.Haitch | ★★★★ | May 2018
It’s Only Life | ★★★★ | June 2018
Around the World in Eighty Days | ★★★ | August 2018
Midnight | ★★★★★ | September 2018
Brass | ★★★★ | November 2018


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