Review: Leaves of Glass – a small cast pays off

Review: Leaves of Glass – a small cast pays off

Frontline Theatre is Leeds’ newest theatre company, set up by alumnus Hugo Salter. Running this week is Leaves of Glass by Philip Ridley, an ambitious choice which deals with death, grief, love, loyalty and most importantly, sibling rivalry and relationship. Overall, the show was well performed and the small cast of four was very strong. The bond, care and attention from them all was evident.

Charlie Norburn’s Steve was a lost cause – being the older sibling he had always come out on top and seemingly had his life together. The show largely revolved around his story, his rise and fall, his contradictions. The action was interspersed with powerful monologues from Norburn which were beautifully delivered. Steve’s younger brother, Barry, was played by Joe Callaghan. Callaghan was very strong and was perhaps the most consistent performer throughout. He presented a real vulnerability, a relentless uphill battle, the end of which you knew would be met by his manipulative older brother. The relationship between the two boys was brilliant – they perfectly depicted that inexplicable familial love, balanced with that integral jealousy and rivalry. The highlight of the play comes rather too late in the second half, as the brothers meet in Steve’s basement and there is a see-saw of role reversal.

‘Callaghan was very strong and was perhaps the most consistent performer throughout. He presented a real vulnerability’

Their rock of a mother was played by Tash Berg. It would have been good to see more of her in the first half, as her quick wit and strength was admirable. Berg did a great job, and you fully sympathised with her and her drive as her sons suffered: “I’ve buried two parents, a husband and a son, I am more than capable of taking a bus.” Last but not least, Nany Salt’s Debbie was lovely. Just an ordinary girl striving for an ordinary life, overshadowed by her spouse’s incorrigible grief. As mentioned, a smaller cast really pays off, as the performers seemed comfortable with each other, their heavy subject material laid in context and dealt with maturely.

‘A smaller cast really pays off, as the performers seemed comfortable with each other, their heavy subject material laid in context and dealt with maturely’

The directors (Tom Claxton and Luke Charlton) note in the programme that working in traverse (with the audience on two sides) brought difficulties. It was effective but felt unnecessary, with much of the main action of the show happening at either end of the traverse, meaning that there were long pauses of action (accompanied by a carefully selected soundtrack) where Norburn had to make his way around the space.

Four very strong actors give this show their all, and the overall design is very pleasing, however I think fault lies in the choice of text.

Leaves of Glass continues its run tonight and tomorrow (3rd & 4th feb) at Stage @ Leeds. You can buy tickets online here, on the door, or from Frontline’s stall in the union.

Flora Tiley

(Image courtesy of Frontline Theatre Company)

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