The ‘glass delusion’ is a psychological disorder causing sufferers to think their body is made of glass and needs to be prevented from smashing. Alix Sobler’s new play, The Glass Piano, presents a variant of the condition.
Set in a Bavarian castle, Princess Alexandra (Grace Molony) believes she swallowed a glass grand piano when she was eight years old. As such, she has to negotiate the world with excessive caution in order to avoid the instrument smashing and her own certain death. When Lucien Bonaparte (Laurence Ubong Williams) arrives as the king’s poetry tutor, it looks as if Alexandra might have a chance to free herself.
Max Key’s production emphasises the implied idea that the ‘glass piano’ supposedly inside of Alexandra actually represents her intense anxiety and abandonment issues – specifically, her mother running away from her queenly duties and living wild in the palace grounds.
Molony and Williams, who starred together in Laura Wade’s superb The Watsons, are charming and poised as a couple tentatively falling in love, drawing out the absurdity and humour of the scenario. Both give knowing performances of real flair.
But despite an intriguing underlying idea, Sobler’s play never really develops. It seemingly ends up suggesting that pretty women can have their psychological distress cured by the arrival of a handsome stranger. There’s also a crucial lack of tension that makes the unevenly paced plot feel flimsy and, like the titular instrument, always on the verge of cracking.