Theatre Review: LEAVES OF GLASS – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

Joseph Potter and Ned Costello in LEAVES OF GLASS.

Joseph Potter and Ned Costello in LEAVES OF GLASS. Photo Credit: Mark Senior

Raw and unflinching, LEAVES OF GLASS is a masterpiece of storytelling, dealing with love, hate, memory and loss.

5 out of 5 stars

Memories. Those fleeting shadows of the truth which may, or may not be, accurate and which are ours alone with our versions of the truth. The secrets we keep and the version of the truth that we hold onto to deal with loss. That is the premise behind the revival of Ridley’s 2007 play by the Lidless Theatre Company.

Set in 2023 and presented in the round, the play deals with love, lies, truths and how we deal with them. This four-hander, directed by Max Harrison, is simply a tour de force of emotion and grips the audience to the very end. The play centres around two brothers, Steven (Ned Costello) and Barry (Joseph Potter) and unspoken undercurrents in their relationship. Steve is the one in control, the sensible one, the good one, whereas Barry is off the rails, a dreamer, a fantasist – or is he?

Ned Costello and Katie Buchholz in LEAVES OF GLASS.

Ned Costello and Katie Buchholz in LEAVES OF GLASS. Photo Credit: Mark Senior

During the course of the play, we see their interactions with each other and their two significant others, Steven’s wife, Debbie (Katie Buchholz) and their mother (Kacey Ainsworth), as a series of snapshots of their lives. Time passes in short bursts, each one charged with unspoken secrets. Both Katie Buchholz and Kacey Ainsworth play their parts with unspoken depth conveyed in glances and body language which makes the audience wonder what they actually know.

Steven is accused of being unfaithful; how can the sensible person who always tells the truth be so? Barry is feckless and not to be believed. However, as the play unfolds, we see different facets of these characters. Is Steven really always in control? Is this just an act to cover a stressed and confused individual, or does he have secrets to hide? Why is Barry in a dream world? Is it just his alcohol use or something deeper in his past that we see hints of? The tension increases scene by scene. Mundane talks about their absent father, alluding not only to a sudden loss but to something worse. Slowly the truth about the father is revealed in dropped hints and then statements with an explosive finale when the awful truth finally comes out.

Joseph Potter and Ned Costello in LEAVES OF GLASS.

Joseph Potter and Ned Costello in LEAVES OF GLASS. Photo Credit: Mark Senior

Above all, the minimalist staging by Kit Hinchcliffe only seeks to isolate the individuals more and create a very fractured staging; an act which fits in with the subject matter perfectly. The family and the nature of time is splintered, and the very effective and simplistic setting of black benches and theatre in the round allows the actors to create isolated scenes.

However, the two central characters are definitely Barry and Steven. Joseph Potter as Barry is an emotional roller coaster. A firecracker of a performance that is heartbreaking and manic, he conveys all the despair and anger of the character. Ned Costello, as Steven, is on stage all the time, and his solo scenes grab the attention. He gives the air of a man just a few slender steps from a complete breakdown, liable to lash out or unravel at any moment, and the final clash between these two characters is mesmerising; as shocking as it is violent.

LEAVES OF GLASS is quite simply a masterpiece of storytelling, a fragmented tale of love, hate, memory and loss, and simply has to be seen. It is raw, unflinching and a masterpiece.

LEAVES OF GLASS runs at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester, until 8 July 2023