Tag Archives: Katie Buchholz

“Leaves of Glass” at the Park Theatre

This welcome revival, from Lidless Theatre, of Philip Ridley’s 2007 play confirms the author as a consistently brilliant playwright. The subject matter includes child abuse and depression – not easy to watch – but what chills and inspires is how Ridley balances accusations, denials and shifting stories while showing how trauma lives on, affecting lives and shaping futures.

Ridley’s is a harsh look at cruel subjects. A sense of paranoia, woven into every line, reflects how the character Steven’s life falls apart: his wife and mother seem against him, while his troubled younger brother makes cryptic demands about confessing… something. Ridley reveals plot as well as any thriller, and director Max Harrison takes his lead – the show is gripping.

The script boasts vivid images: this is a lucid world of violence, vermin and the unexplained. All the unsettling tropes are given time, as they should be – the language is astonishing. Nonetheless, the play is more of a conventional domestic drama than many Ridley offerings – a family putting on a show is clear. Harrison’s incisive approach is further confirmed with the piece’s black humour when the brothers fight or their mum lays down the law.

All the performers clearly admire the script and share Harrison’s vision. Katie Buchholz highlights the strength of her character, Debbie, who is Steven’s wife, adding to the play’s tension. Kacey Ainworth, as the boys’ mother, has strong comedy skills, while the way she ages from one scene to the next at the end of the play left me awe-struck.

Joseph Potter

Joseph Potter takes the role of younger brother Barry, an alcoholic begging and threatening to unearth a past that has ruined his life, balancing sympathy and threat. As his performance in a previous play, Poltergeist, testifies, Potter is an expert at Ridley. He brings a manic energy that matches the writing marvellously.

Taking the lead is Ned Costello in the hugely demanding role of Steven. Understatement is the key to this magnificent performance – Steven’s cool demeanour can be funny but is the first step in our starting to suspect him. As questions mount, Costello shows cracks. It is remarkable that the character can be both sinister and seem weak. At the play’s powerful conclusion, Costello is deeply disturbing.

While scenes with family members are electric, Ridley is a master of the monologue (you can still check out a lockdown highlight – a whole series of fantastic shorts). Steven’s soliloquies are exquisite, brimming with ideas and originality, balancing simple story telling with complex themes. Showing Ridley’s skills with such steely precision secures a five-star rating: an excellent play and production.

Until 3 June 2023


Photos by Mark Senior

"Eigengrau" at Waterloo East Theatre

This welcome revival of an early work by Penelope Skinner, which premiered in 2010 at The Bush, boasts an excellent cast and strong direction from Georgie Staight. It’s a text that’s difficult to pin down – playing with the audience while making serious points – and Staight appreciates the piece’s changes of tempo. There are laughs, handled well by the cast, as well as plenty of ideas and gruesome moments that require a strong stomach. All in all, Eigengrau ends up a challenge, but the play and this production are a definite go-see.

Skinner sets up some straw men and women for us to meet. It’s pretty easy to get a laugh out of them… but it’s still funny. There’s feminist Cassie and her new flatmate “off Gumtree” Rose, the latter’s one-night stand, smarmy successful Mark, and his school chum Tim, who isn’t doing so well. The cast take it all in their stride, with Staight controlling some of the exaggerations. Isabella Della-Porta makes a believable activist, you admire her convictions, while George Fletcher’s marketing man Mark is suitably revolting! The satire is almost genial, a kind of comedy of matters, with points about modern life to debate during after-show drinks. Given the seriousness of some topics, it’s more fun than it should be.

Katie Buchholz and Callum Sharp in Eigengrau at the Waterloo East Theatre
Katie Buchholz and Callum Sharp

As the play’s title, which refers to the colours seen when the eyes are closed, indicates, there’s darkness, too. It comes from the unexpected source of hippyish Rose, superbly performed by Katie Buchholz, who has even painted her toe nails in character. At first, Rose is enormous fun, Skinner makes you laugh at her even if it is cruel. But Cassie’s observation that Rose “scares me” brings forward the text’s mental health issues. Romantic obsession is only part of Rose’s fantasy life; her lack of vision, endearing at times, becomes dangerous. By the end of the play, it’s an open question as to how much the seemingly sweet Tim – with a professional debut in the role that Callum Sharp should be proud of – succumbs to Rose’s flights of fancy.

Eigengrau gets bleak quickly in the second act. There are loose threads: Skinner is heavy handed at times, the “happy ending” too double-edged. Above all, the sexual submission from both female characters is not for the faint-hearted. Be warned. Without spoilers, Cassie’s disappointments in life are painful (and well delivered by Della-Porta). As for Rose, who becomes a twisted Cinderella stand-in for her own fairy tale; never mind the shoe she loses, what she does with the one left is awful. Intrigued? I hope so – this is a play and production that should be seen by many.

Until 22 September 2019


Photos by Lidia Crisafulli