top of page

Review | Leaves of Glass | Hope Mill Theatre | 03/07/2023

Have you ever shared a moment with someone but had drastically different accounts of it? Neither is necessarily lying nor right, that’s what ‘Leaves of Glass’ is all about. This modern classic premiered some 16 years ago, and was revived earlier this year at Park Theatre in London, before making its way to Manchester.

Despite its limited space, the ever-adaptable Hope Mill Theatre has been transformed into an in the round setting, making it more intimate than ever. The modest staging consists of a square high gloss black floor with benches along each side close to the audience, creating an almost claustrophobic atmosphere. This simplistic approach allowed for the acting to take priority whilst bringing the audience in.

Leading the cast as Steven, Ned Costello has the audience in the palm of his hand whilst never leaving the stage. The 18-scene play is a collection of interactions over time with his family, intertwined with solo monologues. Life seems to be going well for him, until his family start accusing him of various things. His partner Debbie (Katie Buchholz) is convinced he is cheating on her, whilst his mum Liz (Kacey Ainsworth) accuses him of being coercive. It is however the accusations from his brother Barry’s (Joesph Potter) that really get the audience thinking.

Philip Ridley is one of our greatest modern playwrights, and having adored a production of ‘Vincent River’ last year I knew we were in safe hands. Ridley proves once again here that he has the power to transport the audience to places and scenes that are merely spoken about by the actors.

‘Leaves Of Glass’ makes the audience question at various stages; is someone lying or are they imagining their own truths differently and does it really matter? This at its heart is a story about family as a much as it is about memory. As it progresses with matters becoming less trivial and more significant, we realise that sometimes it does matter. The piece never tells you which way to think, and different patrons will come out with vastly different takes, which really is the sign of fantastic theatre.

Whilst the chemistry between all characters is strong, none is as interesting as the dynamic between the two brothers. We see their relationship change over time, in parallel with Barry’s addiction struggles. The most powerful scene is between the two of them, performed eerily in near blackout broken only midway through by candlelight. It is haunting and uncomfortable, making the audience questioning who to believe, only this time it matters so much more. Joesph Potter steals the show here with his heartbreaking portrayal of Barry, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. This is juxtaposed against the earlier comic relief injected throughout the play by Kacey Ainsworth as Liz and relatable relationship snippets with Katie Buchholz as Debbie.

Here in Britain, we like to believe that a cup of tea and a biscuit can solve anything when tensions are fraught. Despite Liz’s efforts, it is proved that unfortunately this is rarely the case. This play is a lesson of the importance of family and finding mutual understanding in the moment, before it becomes a memory.

‘Leaves Of Glass’ is theatre at its absolute finest. By presenting only discussions of the past, it gives us most of the jigsaw whilst letting the audience decide which character holds the missing piece. This brilliant, grippingly tense play is on at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 08 July 2023, see below for booking information:

Photo Credit: Mark Senior

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


bottom of page