Phillip Ridley play + Very talented cast = A Theatrical Tour De Force

A great number of my friends and I love absolutely anything and everything to do with theatre. Having only been able to ‘tread the boards’ once in my university career (and once at school), I find myself constantly in awe of my wonderful motley crew of actors, actresses, writers and directors and wish I had even a modicum of their talents.  However, this longing does not mean I am immune to the power of theatre in any which way shape or form. I love how it has the power to bring people together. The way it moves people. The way it can be both grand and speak wider volumes but also be beautifully, painstakingly intimate.

I experienced a play which did all these things last night: ‘Leaves of Glass’ by Phillip Ridley. I was, until last night unfamiliar with his work… but resolve to no longer be so, for reasons I shall delve deeper into shortly, after a word about the company. 4 actors, that was all who were involved- a testament to the idea that one does not need a huge company in order to create  theatratrical magic. Or indeed, any ‘flashy’ grand sets or props a plenty – it was minimalist but sure packed one HELL of a punch- thanks to these amazing actors: Michael Fox, Chris Levens, Judith Haley and Madeliene Havell, of roomOne Productions. They’re a relatively young company, having emerged from Bristol’s UWE in 2008 following their adaptation of Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’. They’ve recieved brilliant reviews and I urge everyone to look them up and see them if you get the chance. I, for sure will be on their tail in the future 🙂

Anyways, back to the play. Leaves of Glass focuses on how grief, loss and lies become twisted into the fabric of family life, thereby making it fragile but somehow beautifully haunting at the same time. Steven (brilliantly played by Michael Fox) is the ‘golden boy’ of the family: good job, girlfriend, starting a family and all that jazz) who throughout the course of the play becomes distant and troubled by demons and secrets of his own. Then you have his brother Barry, (played to perfection by Chris) the troubled artist battling grief at the loss of his father as well as alcoholism. What I loved about these two actors was their chemistry, and the gradual ‘role reversal’ that takes place between the two was a thing of beauty- the play begins with Barry dreaming and telling Steven all about the things he is seeing, but come the end of the play Steven is wracked with guilt and in Barry’s words: ‘stinks like a brewery.’

My favourite scene encompassed the nature of the play as a whole, and has become the reason why I am so keen to become further aquainted with Ridley’s work. In anger, Barry says to his mother: ‘you believe him cause he wraps up all the painful stuff in feathers and flowers- Makes it all safe and cosy. You can’t feel the broken glass inside’. And that’s what Ridley does so well – gives us a sense of familiarity but ripples it with a deliciously dark and profound edge, moving yet shocking. And above all: makes you think.

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