A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

A Mirror

A Mirror
22 August 2023
Almeida Theatre
4.5 out of 5.0 stars

This play is a lie.

A mirror, currently running at the Almeida, is a play within a play, with a few surprising twists and some very heavy points to make. I especially appreciate that it is a run-through production with a 2 hour run time, an interval in shorter, more immersive plays often seems very disruptive to me. And this play definitely benefits from being staged without a break in the story.

The auditorium is decorated for a wedding, with a small buffet table, complete with wedding cake, next to the entrance, flower arrangements and fairy lights, a large disco ball above the stage, and the event seating in the front stalls (chairs instead of folding theatre seats) further add to the atmosphere. Each seat holds an “order of service” leaflet, welcoming guests to the wedding of Leyla and Joel. Once the audience is settled, the wedding begins, but during the vows it is revealed that this wedding is a sham, set up to get around government regulations to present an important play.

The audience is thrown into a world of oppression and secrecy. In this totalitarian regime, art is heavily censored and propaganda reigns supreme. The players on stage present a play about a playwright and his struggles to tell the truth despite heavy regulations on what is and isn’t allowed in theatre productions.

Occasionally forced to re-instate the wedding when an alarm is raised, the play tells the story of a playwright with a perfect memory, who presents verbatim plays, throwing up questions towards what theatre is meant to achieve, if real life can be art, and most of all, how would we ourselves hold up if put under intense scrutiny of perfectly accurate portrayal of all our words and actions.

I absolutely loved the entire show from beginning to end, the staging was simple but effective, really grasping the underground theatre production aesthetic. Actors slipping from role to role depending on whether they are acting in the play or portraying characters in a wedding. And of course the story itself, a story of censorship and oppression, and a fight against a government that seems too big and ruthless to fight.

With strong performances, an interesting story, and a fantastic ending, A Mirror is a brilliant production that might still benefit with a little polishing around the edges, but comes across as very real, honest, and down to earth in a way that I appreciate very much for this kind of story. The current run is sold out, but if it transfers to the West End, as many Almeida shows do, I hope a wide variety of audiences get to see this thought-provoking story.

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