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The Gathered Leaves

Published 17 July 2015

What’s it all about?

Far from the autumnal scene the title evokes, this is the story of a family that comes together at Easter, the weekend of William’s 75th birthday, for the first time in almost two decades.

Until those fateful few days, William’s children and grandchildren have been scattered in all directions, a bit like fallen leaves – oh it’s all starting to make sense now – that have been swept by the wind from the Pennington family tree.

As the head of the family, William is determined to make peace with the relatives he’s ostracised, but at the same time, as he’s faced with the onset of vascular dementia, he wants to ensure that his name is passed on, ostracising a few others in the process.

Who’s in it?

If I might be so bold, this may well be one of the most talented casts currently performing on the London stage.

Nick Sampson leads the way with his endearing portrayal of Samuel, a book-loving man with autism whose simple outlook on life is a difficult thing for his father to deal with, even half a century on.

Alexander Hanson is excellent as his patient and caring brother Giles, whose marriage clearly suffers at the hands of their deep-rooted fraternal relationship.

Hanson’s son, Tom, oozes confidence as the cocky – and unbelievably irritating when winning at anything – Simon.

Clive Francis’ William flits between the grumpiest, most disgruntled of birthday boys to a man remorseful of the way he’s acted and who’s striving to bring his family back together.

Like the Hansons, Jane Asher and her daughter Katie Scarfe are an immensely plausible mother/daughter (funnily enough) and Amber James’ Aurelia brilliantly captures the chirpy awkwardness of a teenager faced with meeting many of her family members for the first time.

What should I look out for?

A TV Time Lord and how his presence – rather fittingly – travels whole decades to remain a touching and poignant symbol of Giles and Samuel’s relationship.

A conversation about race, gender and equality that leads Tom Hanson’s Simon to declare himself the only feminist in the room.

Who was in the press night crowd?

We spotted two of this year’s lovely Olivier Award nominees – Tim Pigott-Smith and Samantha Bond – the latter of whom was no doubt there not only to enjoy this extraordinary play but also to support (literally) half of her direct family.

In a nutshell?

Beautifully written, directed and acted, Andrew Keatley’s family drama may be strikingly familiar in its subject matter but it’s a rare treat to see so perfectly executed on stage.

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Will I like it?

This is for anyone who has a family. With honest familial bonds, tense board game rivalries and an awful lot of bickering, The Gathered Leaves paints a picture of family life that surely anyone can identify with. Full of wonderfully crafted characters and relationships that are both tricky and touching, Keatley’s drama, in this fine-tuned production by The Woman In Black’s Antony Eden, deserves to gather an awful lot of attention this summer. Audiences may never want to leave.

The Gathered Leaves is playing at the Park Theatre until 15 August. You can book tickets through the venue’s website.


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