Directed by Rachel Chant
Some Company in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company
Kings Cross Theatre
244-248 Williams Street, Kings Cross
Season: 9 – 23 July
Suicide is very final. The person is no longer there anymore. But when someone attempts suicide, the person continues to exist, and yet your relationship with them will inevitably be different – especially in a familial context. Were there missed signals? Are you to blame? Can you make them happy again? Many painful questions, with no easy answers. Lucy Caldwell’s play Leaves is an impeccable depiction of a family trying to hold it together after the oldest daughter, Lori, tries to overdose on pills. As an audience, we see each family member respond differently, the two parents and Lori’s two younger sisters. This takes place against the historic backdrop of Belfast in the Irish Troubles.
In a play like this, in such an intimate space, it could be very easy to slide into the realm of over-acting and instantly shatter believability. There wasn’t even a hint of this challenge in Bobbie-Jean Henning (Clover) and Harriet Gordon-Anderson’s (Lori) performances, instead being wholly present as performers in every scene, listening and responding accordingly. This is what allows audiences to become invested and what we crave to see on the stage – the truth. Poppy Lynch tackles the challenge of being a woman acting as an 11 year old, her character’s name also being Poppy. She does so earnestly and with great energy. When playing a significantly younger role, I feel like you have to let go of the way you think an 11 year old acts, and just be – because an 11 year old isn’t acting like an 11 year old, they are just being themselves at that life stage. I enjoyed seeing the way the three sisters interacted – and this dynamic was nailed by the performers, under Chant’s direction. This remained the case in the absence, and return, of Lori, the eldest sister – and to see the shift of relationship between Poppy and Clover was fascinating. There is something very distinct about a relationship between sisters, and Leaves captures this distinction beautifully. Amanda Stephens-Lee plays Phyllis, Lori’s Mother, with devastating anxiety. It’s almost as if she is grieving in spite of Lori still being alive. Simon Lyndon plays Lori’s Father, David, a quiet man, and yet I would have liked to see a little more dynamism from his performance.
In the face of the unbearable occurring, against a piteous backdrop, family endures. Strength resounds from this family in spite of everything they have experienced, knitted into the fabric of their lives. It is astonishing what humans can survive, alleviated only by the power of human connection. Evidently, relationships are invaluable. They are a resource survival. And yet, they are more than that – they are a source of light to thrive on.