Review: A Mirror, Almeida Theatre

Plays within plays within plays, Jonny Lee Miller fans will go through a lot in A Mirror at the Almeida Theatre

“Tonight’s performance is being staged without a permit from the ministry…”

Illness meant I missed my initial date for A Mirror at the Almeida Theatre but some judicious stalking of the website meant I was able to pick up a return. And I almost wish I hadn’t, the idea of Sam Holcroft’s mysterious new play far more intriguing than its reality, for me at least.

Decorum dictates that I try and avoid spoilers and so there’s naturally little I can really say. We arrive as guests at the wedding of Leyla and Joel but all is not what it seems, we’re actually at the performance of an unlicensed play in a totalitarian regime that is super-hot on censorship.

But that is just the first layer of this increasingly metatheatrical play, the work of the Ministry of Culture number Čelik and his favourite new playwright Adem folding in on itself over and over as warnings of subversion and state oversight ring out, interruptions constantly reset what we’re seeing and multiple rugs are pulled.

It is all smartly done in Jeremy Herrin’s production and seems to delight in the ways it tests its audience, entertaining some and exasperating others. I’d argue the cleverness of its structure masks something of a self-satisfaction as it invokes the idea of state-sanctioned repression without ever really engaging with the cruel and brutal realities of life under such a regime.

It could also afford to lose a loop or two, to tighten the running time by 20 or 30 minutes or so, to really sharpen its effect, rather than leading us on its merry dance for yet another round. Jonny Lee Miller is good though, as are Tanya Reynolds, Micheal Ward and the excellent Geoffrey Streatfeild, but I did leave the theatre feeling rather frustrated.

Running time: 2 hours (without interval)
Photo: Marc Brenner
A Mirror is booking at the Almeida Theatre until 23rd September

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