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

The First Night Feature: Glass Eels

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 21 April 2008

Eels, as we are told in Nell Leyshon's latest offering, Glass Eels, nest in silt of the riverbed, biding their time and maturing until they are ready to squirm their way to the surface and return to their natural home; not unlike the questions and resentment of childhood and the shadows of traumatic events that hide in the recesses of the memory waiting for an appropriate moment to appear. Matthew Amer was at the Hampstead for the first night of a familial coming-of-age tale…

The Somerset Levels in the midst of an oppressive summer is a land dominated by the river. The common tales of eels link a community together while myths about sacrificial offerings to the river lay at the heart of this tale. Lily's mother was taken by the river early in Lily's childhood, and no-one seems to have spoken about the incident since. Her father Mervyn barely speaks at all, while grandfather Harold is mainly concerned with food. Harold is the voice of old Somerset, full of tales and stories he is eager to share, but unable to do much for himself.

As Lily approaches an age when she starts to learn more about herself and the world, she begins to think more about the mother figure that has been missing. Her ponderings aren’t helped by the sight of her father with another woman.

Like Comfort Me With Apples, which won Leyshon the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright, Glass Eels is a story of a family firmly rooted in its Somerset location. The family live a frugal life – all we ever see them eat is bread and jam – and the gender roles are of a traditional persuasion; the men expect food to be prepared for them. At the death of her mother, it fell to a young Lily to step into the matriarchal position. In Laura Elphinstone's performance we see her grow from stubborn teenager, fed up with being treated this way, into someone struggling to understand herself and her past.

It is a piece ripe with imagery, from the squirming eels to the fly trapped in a pane of glass, held in stasis and able to see the world around him but unable to interact with it. It is not just Lily who is trapped, but Philip Joseph's Mervyn, a strong, silent man, who copes with adversity by blocking it out or shouting.

Towards the end of a touching tale, I did worry whether the front rows of the audience needed to be issued with cagoules, not for the downpour outside, but because Mike Britton's design sees the rising water of the river gradually engulf most of the stage during the performance. As a theatrical trick it is both impressive and pertinent, but quite how much row A enjoyed the splashing, I don't know.

Glass Eels runs at the Hampstead until 21 July.

MA

Share

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.