By Philip Ridley
Directed by Simon Stone
With Johnny Carr, Daniel Frederiksen, Amelia Best & Jillian Murray
Set: Peter Mumford
Lighting: Kim Kwa
Stage Manager: Julian Camara
Leaves of Glass (April 29 – May 30)
Kate Rose, Sunday Herald Sun 09/05/09
Steven (Dan Frederiksen) and Barry (Johnny Carr) are brothers, but DNA is about all they share. Steven is a successful businessman, wealthy, married and about to become a father. Barry is the passionate, honest, alcoholic artist who has more than his fair share of demons.
When Barry kicks the booze and Steven approaches parenthood it becomes painfully apparent the past isn’t interested in staying buried.
Playwright Philip Ridley has put family life under the microscope and finds it has more layers than an onion crop.
He’s brutal and brilliant — not many playwrights could liken families to the Kennedy assassination and carry it off – if occasionally heavy-handed.
But it would be for nothing without the astonishing and raw performances of Frederiksen and Carr as the brothers. Both are transformed into their roles, slowly revealing the memories with which they wrestle.
The sparse, modern set could leave lesser actors flailing with nowhere to hide, but the characterisations of Steven and Barry easily fill the space.
The layered set by Peter Mumford cleverly mirrors the play, allowing the audience only the briefest of glimpses into the inner sanctum, just as they also get only the shortest glance into the past.
This is yet another offering from a theatre group that knows exactly what it does well, but never falls into the trap of becoming repetitive.
Martin Ball, The Age 03/05/09
Leaves of Glass (30 April – 30 May, 2009)
LEAVES of Glass is the second in a trilogy of plays by contemporary English writer Philip Ridley, exploring sibling rivalry, secrets and death. With its poetic construction and visceral emotions, this play is typical fare for Red Stitch Actors Theatre, and an example of what it does best: intense characterisation, focused direction and design, and yet another Australian premiere.
At first glance, Ridley’s play feels familiar, as the fraternal plot paradigm covers similar ground to that ploughed by Sam West and Daniel Keene, among others. Leaves of Glass nevertheless claims its own space and identity, firstly through a complex power relationship between brothers, and especially in the multiple metaphors of the title, whose ultimate revelation is delayed until the very last scene, when it wrenches you with exquisite poignancy.
The play opens with failed artist Barry (Johnny Carr) in an alcoholic delirium, haunted by sinister, half-remembered images. He is being comforted by his elder brother Steven (Daniel Frederiksen), who rather pointedly runs a graffiti removal business, suggesting a tendency to suppress expression and cover things up.
Little by little, Ridley peels back the family secrets surrounding the death of the boys’ father, firstly through their divided relationship with their mother Liz (Jillian Murray) and Steven’s pregnant wife (Amelia Best).
Simon Stone’s focused direction achieves good tone and rhythm throughout. The use of clear plastic screens deftly emphasises the barriers the characters draw between each other, even while it recalls designer Peter Mumford’s set for Tom Holloway’s Red Sky Morning, where he used venetian blinds to represent levels of separation.
Johnny Carr’s performance as Barry is a free-flowing riff on the image of the damaged artist; it is expressive, emotional, wayward. If there is a tendency towards hyperbole, this is in keeping with the character.
Dan Frederiksen gives a strong and nuanced portrait of Steven, nicely balancing the paradoxical shades of control, coercion, fragility and guilt. We have seen him play this sort of character a number of times before, however, underscoring that this production’s success comes with a sense of deja vu.