House of Mirrors and Hearts

A scream offstage and Laura enters covered in blood. A terrible accident... but can Anna ever forgive her daughter for the suspicious circumstances in which the family father dies? On the search for an obscure seventeenth-century poet, would-be academic Nathan instead finds a place in the family of Anna and her daughters, or so it seems. That this musical play is something special becomes clear from the very first few bars of music: its beautiful score and magical book deliver a piece of new theatre that establishes the reputations of Eamonn O’Dwyer and Robert Gilbert as a team to watch.The book of this musical is its greatest strength. Managing to maintain a gripping emotional story-line while juggling a large number of interlinked but definitely-different themes is no mean feat, but at all times the book is tightly-constructed with almost no redundant material. The integration of poetry, location and symbolic artifacts is a masterclass in classic drama; but don’t think the play is a sort of paint-by-numbers of theatrical technique - the scene between Nathan and Laura when they take some empties outside to be smashed is one of the most heartfelt and emotive I’ve seen all Fringe, artificial though it undoubtedly is in construction.Somewhere between Terry Riley and Sondheim, the music has been carefully constructed to aid and extend the action onstage. At first I found the abundance of vibrato irritating, but it soon became clear that, especially in the case of Nathan, it is carefully planned and controlled and a distinct vocal style in keeping with the mood of the book emerges over time. The operatic vocal performance of Noa Bodner is particularly powerful and beautifully-acted while Rachel Holbrook thrives in the particularly challenging part of Lily the attention-seeking younger daughter, and imbues the gradual changing of her character with an admirable depth that is perhaps not explicit in the script.It’s hard not to make the play sound depressing: it’s (explicit) message is to see beauty in the breaking of things - and I don’t mind warning you not to expect a happy ending. Perhaps this is why the show has had disappointing audiences so far. The play certainly isn’t broken, however, and a better-constructed slice of musical theatre is hard to come by at the Fringe, especially in a production with such a talented cast. So have another glass of wine, Anna certainly will, and head down to C to see this moving and memorable musical.

Reviews by James T. Harding

Pleasance Courtyard

Creatives

★★
Bedlam Theatre

The Duck Pond

★★★★★

The Blurb

The powerful story of a family shattered by loss. Seven years on, can Anna and her daughters pick up the pieces of their lives or simply see themselves for what they have become? www.selladoor.com