Theatre Review - A Mirror

For its latest production, the Almeida’s foyer is decked out with pink and blue balloons and ribbons. We are led to believe we are guests at Leyla and Joel’s marriage celebration.

In A Mirror, Sam Holcroft’s clever play within a play within a playit transpires that this is a fa├žade for a subversive work being staged without state consent. The real drama opens in the censor’s office of an unnamed country, partly inspired, Holcroft says, by a visit to North Korea, although it could be any dictatorship – they use similar methods.

Adem (Michael Ward) a mechanic turned playwright is having his first script assessed by Celik (Jonny Lee Miller) in the Ministry of Culture. Adem has recorded overheard conversations of his neighbours. Celik suspects Adem of wanting his audience to blame the government for their miserable lives.

Celik sends him off to write something  more appropriate. This time, Adem recreates their meeting. In exasperation Celik, accompanied by his junior assistant Mei (Tanya Reynolds), holds a workshop with unctuous, state-approved playwright Bax (Geoffrey Streatfeild). What this reveals is the limitations of art as propaganda.

Miller gives a pitch-perfect performance, conveying Celik’s passion for theatre combined with an all-consuming ambition and zealous obedience to an authoritarian regime.

Although primarily interested in exploring censorship and free speech, Holcroft touches on contemporary preoccupations closer to home – such as what gets funded and what risks being cancelled.

The growing sense of menace is complemented by cellist Miriam Wakeling while Jeremy Herrin gets maximum mileage from his starry cast and Holcroft’s themes.

Running at two hours without an interval, A Mirror could have been considerably shorter without losing any of its power. However, I loved its metatheatricality and sly humour and remained enthralled throughout.


To Sept 23

 Originally published by Islington Tribune