Friday, 19 March 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Mirror Effect

If I thought Lisa Bowerman overacted slightly in certain scenes of ‘Dance of the Dead’, this play rushes in to prove me wrong. This play is full of shrieks and wails, unrelenting in its angst. Only now it all makes sense, it’s called for.

It’s all about context.

Previously I praised the Green Eyed Monster for tying together Joseph, Adrian and Jason on audio. The Mirror Effect goes one better by bring Braxiatel into the scene and actually giving him something meaty to do. In fact possibly he could occupy more air time than any other character, slowly probing deeper into the mirror, the only one holding it together as the world falls apart around him.

It starts unusually. There’s no build up to the action, events are already in progress when the cast are dumped in an underground mine with no explanation; wet, cold and already pissed off with each other. Things slowly deteriorate, with characters forming and breaking alliances in quick succession, everyone determines to force the world to fit around them. Jason and Adrian both want Bernice to themselves, Bernice doesn’t know what she wants and Braxiatel… well he wants something but the audience isn’t privy to that.

The only outsider in this little world of confusion is Beverly Cressman playing Doctor Carnivel. She’s introduced and dismissed fairly quickly, as an example of the dangers of the mirror. Her stories, or lies, make no sense, even if they do provide drama and tension for the first twenty minutes whilst the main story builds towards a critical point.

In fact very little of the Mirror Effect does make sense. It’s all overwrought and confusing. The moment you become certain of something the world twists around you, dumbfounding the cast one by one, the only constant the characters themselves. It’s like explorative surgery into the character’s heads, as the mirror pulls out their deepest fears and anxieties and scopes in on them, carefully examining them. Although the ‘evil mirror’ world is hardly new, this is a very good examination of the concept.

Whether you enjoy this or not probably depends on your threshold for this level of angst. Also it depends on the previous level of attachment you’ve given to the assembled cast, and how much you want to see them vindicated. Jason gets to do something very smart, followed by something very stupid, and then typically no one realises it. Adrian gets vindication for his love of Bernice, and she goes through hell and back to confirm that she loves her baby.

Brax crosses the line and actually shows there’s something dark going on in there. The questions raised about him, and his motives for housing the collection, rear their head several times in the play. The idea that he’s treating his friends the same as his exhibits, that he ‘allowed’ Peter to happen to add fame to himself, is a powerful concept that undermines everything you thought you knew until now. Only you can almost dismiss the questions out of hand, or you could have, if Brax hadn’t reacted the way he did and simply hypnotised Jason.

Would an innocent man really do that?

It’s a convoluted play, with very little coherent plot until the end. What it does do, hopefully, is re-examine the status quo on the collection and sort through the characters past one final time. However it is very well written, and a rewarding experience for the characters you’ve slowly been building up an attachment to. It’s a clear statement that there are more stories to be told on the collection.

8 / 10

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