“Through The Leaves”, written in 1981 by playwright Franz Xaver Kroetz, is a development of one of his earlier works called “Men’s Business”.
Martha is a tough self-employed butcher in her 50’s who values the independency that her successful butcher’s shop, which she inherited from her father, bequeaths her. However, her prized independence has come with hidden costs, butchery is perceived as a ‘man’s business’ in which one has to be tough to survive. It has left Martha lonely and unloved, craving for the attention of the opposite sex, even if that attention is abusive.
Such attention arrives in the form of Otto, a coarse factory worker who merely views Martha as just another conquest. A vain conceited misogynist man who feels threatened by Martha’s strong personality and financial independence. He calls her unwomanly, unattractive and unnatural.
Both characters are incapable of articulating their emotions and experiences and struggle to understand the grim and barren relationship that has developed between them. Martha is seeking a man who will love and respect her whilst Otto wants a woman who will coo admiringly whilst he preens his fragile male ego. The power struggle between them, for which Otto is badly equipped, is most clearly portrayed by their diverse economic circumstances, which is a constant source of irritation between them.
Ann Mitchell gives a powerful performance as Martha. She encapsulates the internal struggle that Martha has in expressing her hidden feelings and fears, which underlie her hopes and expectations that she projects upon her pitiful relationship with Otto. Sadly Simon Callow is disappointing as Otto, while he succeeds in capturing Otto’s rude and lewd behaviour, his portrayal appears superficial and never captures any sense of Otto’s inner turmoil or insecurity.
The set by Soutra Gilmour, like the relationship between Martha and Otto, is cold and barren. It shows the back room of Martha’s shop where she chops the animal carcasses and the stark uncomfortable sofa she uses for relaxation.
What other critics had to say.....
LYN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, "It is a fantastic play....It is.. beautifully staged and acted." ALASTAIR MACAULAY for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Through the Leaves works poignantly and suspensefully here in Anthony Vivis's translation."
External links to full reviews from popular press