Thursday, 2 April 2015

Review: The Mist in the Mirror at Nottingham Playhouse

Judging from my last two visits to the theatre (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Mist in the Mirror) theatre technology has suddenly got very exciting and certainly helps add a terrific atmosphere to the plays that a straight forward set perhaps would not.

In this instance Oldham Coliseum Theatre and ITD (imitating the dog) have joined forces to create a masterpiece of Gothic drama in a stage adaptation of Susan Hill's ghost story The Mist in the Mirror. The adaptation is by Ian Kershaw and the result (in this touring production) is a stunning and scary piece of Gothic story-telling shown mostly in black and white with some amazing effects. The piece is a wonderfully stylish piece of theatre directed by Kevin Shaw.

Imitating the dog have been creating and touring original performance work since 1998. Pete Brooks, Andrew Quick and Simon Wainwright are the Artistic Directors and their work has built a company with a unique reputation in the UK, Europe and internationally. They also collaborate as creative partners for other works. Their recent work includes concept and projection design for Soul Sister in the West End and fairly recently the outstandingly popular and critically acclaimed The Hound of The Baskervilles for Oldham Coliseum Theatre. The Guardian newspaper called them "a company at the forefront of testing the nature of theatre".

In 'The Mist in the Mirror' we witness a restless young traveller named James Monmouth (Paul Warriner) becoming obsessed with the legacy of a famous fictional explorer known as Conrad Vane. During the story, superbly narrated by Jack Lord, as The Reader, Monmouth is repeatedly warned by a range of eccentric individuals to leave well alone. It is a bit like watching a horror film where the hero foolishly decides to venue into the creepy cellar where the killer lurks in the shadows and you know darn well he shouldn't but the crazy compulsion drives them onward.

The interaction between live and digital is brilliantly done. Rain pours down almost constantly, spooky fog at the docks fills the stage, doors disappear before your very eyes, and the darkness of the fantastic set created by Barney George adds superbly to the chill factor. My astonished self almost wanted to laugh out loud at the brilliance of a train carriage seemingly arriving on set, the hero descending from the carriage and the train departing in a ghostly mist. This was all done by projections and a solid entrance. The whole short play contains so many wonderful tricks of light, dark and shade and illusion that you are completely drawn into the story. The cast of five (Sarah Eve, Caroline Harding, Jack Lord, Martin Reeve, Paul Warriner) work together terrifically to tell the story with some perfect timing as they flit in and out of the darkened set as shadows of evil and good intent.

This is a Gothic fireside story that draws the audience into its complicities, makes you jump rather than terrifies, has creepy voice echoes that resound around the theatre and has an otherworldly mystery from flickering Edwardian gas lit start to startling finish.

Running at Nottingham Playhouse until 4th April 2015

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