facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11
Are you missing theatre as much as we are? Support us now with Theatre Tokens and see your favourite shows when they reopen. #IMissTheatre


First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 21 April 2008

Moving away from home for the first time is a milestone in any teenager’s life. But coming home again can be just as hard. In her first full-length play, Leaves, which premiered in Galway and now comes to the Royal Court, Lucy Caldwell explores the torment, the heartache and the misunderstanding that surrounds one young woman’s inability to cope with the wide world, and the act that changed everything back home. Caroline Bishop went to the first night at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.

Lori is 19. She has been at university in England for just a few weeks, but now, as the play opens, we hear she is coming home. The atmosphere round the dinner table is fraught, her parents are tense, her youngest sister excited, the middle child caught in between. But the anticipation of Lori’s return to the family home in Belfast is not happy. A few weeks away has altered this family forever, because Lori attempted suicide.

Caldwell’s portrait of each family member is closely observed, and the fall-out from Lori’s inexplicable act on this ‘ordinary’ Belfast family is poignantly believable. The father, David (Conor Lovett), buries himself in his work out of an inability to deal with his eldest daughter’s actions; mother Phyllis (Fiona Bell) has strung herself up on an emotional high wire, desperately needing an explanation that her daughter cannot give, blaming herself and neglecting her two younger daughters out of obsession with her first-born’s state of mind. Of those two, Poppy (the charming and naturally talented Daisy Maguire, sister in real life to Penelope Maguire’s Clover), has the straightforwardness of an 11-year-old, delighted that her sister has returned and simply wanting everything back to normal; Clover, 15, is old enough to feel the complex mixture of hurt, anger and love that Lori has provoked.

While these relationships form the backbone of the play, Caldwell also asks bigger questions about growing up in 21st century society. In offering an explanation of her suicide attempt, Lori (played by Kathy Rose O’Brien) says that she feels incapable of believing in anything. Her mother cannot understand, feeling her daughter should take advantage of choices and opportunities that she never had, pushing her to escape the confines of Belfast. But does this infinite amount of choice mean Lori is left floundering? Is it too difficult to find your way in this huge, opportunistic world?

The final scene rewinds to the day Lori left for university, a late summer day they shared in the garden of their home. Phyllis and David are excited for their daughter, delighted she is embarking on the rest of her life. Lori however, wants to tease out the last happy moments she will share with her family before leaving for permanent adulthood. Perhaps it would be safer to stay at home.



Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.