The Gathered Leaves
Reviewed on Friday 17th July 2015
The Gathered Leaves is a brilliant family drama set over Easter weekend in 1997. Andrew Keatley’s play centres around the Pennington family who haven't been in the same room for over seventeen years until three generations are brought together to celebrate a seventy-fifth birthday. Secrets are revealed, tempers flare, relationships are tested and the atmosphere intensifies.
Antony Eden's production has been superbly cast; Clive Francis and Jane Asher (pictured right) star as the heads of the family, William and Olivia. Francis has many of the best scenes and one-liners, other family members tiptoe around him but not his wife; Asher's performance is joyfully feisty. Together Francis and Asher make William and Olivia's relationship incredibly believable.
A true family affair, Asher's real-life daughter Katie Scarfe stars as William and Olivia's 'estranged' daughter, taking to the stage with natural charm. Alexander Hanson also appears as a member of the second generation; I've seen Hanson perform on some huge stages, but here he excels in the intimacy of the Park Theatre, the subtle details of his performance are hugely commendable.
Hanson's son, Tom Hanson, is also in the cast as Simon, a member of the third generation. The character is probably my favourite, Simon has an answer to everything and - frustratingly for some - actually talks a lot of sense; Hanson hits the nail on the head and portrays the character to perfection without going too over the top.
Georgina Beedle, Amber James, Nick Sampson and Anna Wilson-Jones are also equally as strong in their roles within the family - it is certainly the strongest ensemble cast I have ever seen in a play at the Park Theatre. Although the running time feels a tad too long, Keatley has written each character with depth; everyone has their own individual storyline. My favourite scenes were those when everyone came together, perhaps there could have been more as the group dynamic worked a treat.
Written with such truth, for many The Gathered Leaves will be unnervingly relatable. It's wonderful to forget about your own family dramas for one evening and focus on somebody else's. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
The Gathered Leaves runs at the Park Theatre until Saturday 15th August 2015.
Please visit www.parktheatre.co.uk for further information and tickets.
Photo Credit: Mark Douet