The X Collective’s production of Leaves of Glass is sombre; a darkly twisted tale about how families grieve and communicate through trauma. Directed by Wayne McPhee, The X Collective has created an experience true to the original script that draws attention to its brilliance.
Written for the stage by Philip Ridley, Leaves of Glass premiered in 2007 at the Soho Theatre in London. The play, written in a style similar to Tennesse Williams’ The Glass Menagerie explores the terrifying psychological undercurrents that underpin family relationships. And Director Wayne McPhee believes it is one of the best plays ever written.
Leaves of Glass centres on the conflict that developed between two brothers, Steven and Barry, after the death of their father. At the crux of the play is a traumatic childhood incident that they never speak of. The story is about silence; a family who does not know how to face trauma and deal with mental health.
Aesthetically, The X Collective’s design and staging of Leaves of Glass is simple. The stage is divided into three spaces; namely Steven and Debbie’s house downstage left, Barry’s place on the upstage tier and Liz’s place downstage right. The furniture design effectively communicates the style of each of the characters; in particular Steven’s modern chic indicating his wealthy status.
Wayne McPhee’s directorial style and vision for the show is clear from beginning to end; establishing dramatic realism throughout. The staging is designed to communicate the subtext of the action; particularly evident in Steven’s positioning for his monologue at the top of the second act deliberately distancing him from the audience to show his disconnected mental state.
Leaves of Glass is ultimately a play which centres on the things left unsaid between the four key characters, Steven, Barry, Liz and Debbie, and this could never be pulled off without an excellent cast to carry the subtext. This is where The X Collective’s production shines.
Portraying the “successful” brother, Steven, is Nathan Kennedy. Nathan, although perhaps a little young for this role, brings Steven to life with an authenticity beyond his years. Nathan acquits himself as an actor with substance, showing depth and range. The role is complex and dialogue heavy with multiple monologues but despite the challenge, Nathan aced his performance.
Contrasting Steven is the fantastic Aidan O’Donnell as Barry who delivers a definite standout performance. Aidan, although also perhaps a little young for this role, is a marvellously talented actor who showcases his skills by tackling a complex character with a deeply disturbed psyche with gusto. Aidan’s performance is flawless from beginning to end, tugging at the heartstrings of the audience. Bravo!
Adding to the drama between the brothers is the talented Caroline Sparrow as Steven’s wife, Debbie. Caroline is a wonderful performer with outstanding stage presence; leaving no doubt whatsoever that she is an actor of immense skill. Her authentic portrayal takes the audience on a journey with Debbie from excited, expectant mother to damaged, trapped wife unable to escape a toxic cycle. Caroline’s performance is haunting and heartbreaking; solidifying her talent.
Raising the stakes, stirring the conflict between brothers is an undeniably marvellous Sandra Harman in the role of Steven and Barry’s mother, Liz. Sandra is another standout performer in this production who, without a doubt, is one of Brisbane’s most excellent dramatic actors. Sandra’s rendition of a sweet mother with a soft spot for her eldest son is perfect yet terrifying; showing the true harm of denying mental health issues as she flits about Steven declaring his depression a “fluey bug thing”.
These four talented performers colliding with an excellent director culminates in a chilling theatre going experience that challenges the audience to consider their own relationships with their family; showing the true power of art. There is only one point of constructive criticism for this show in that perhaps The X Collective should consider a clear content warning as it contains an account of childhood sexual assault which some may find confronting.
Overall, The X Collective’s production of Leaves of Glass is a powerful rendition of a classic play showcasing the undeniable talent and skills of Nathan Kennedy, Aidan O’Donnell, Caroline Sparrow and Sandra Harman and director Wayne McPhee.
The show will play at the Brisbane Latvian Hall until 30 April and tickets are on sale now here.