THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS & HEARTS
book by Eamonn O’Dwyer and Rob Gilbert music and lyrics by Eamonn O’Dwyer,
Arcola Theatre 24 Ashwin Street London E8 3DL To 1 August 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: William Russell 13 July.
Through the looking glass where all is not as it seems.
There is one thing to be said for this ambitious chamber piece – it is not another juke-box musical based on someone’s back catalogue. Composed by Eamonn O’Dwyer, who also wrote the book and lyrics along with Ron Gilbert, who co-wrote the book, it is one of those family dramas where something nasty in the past has poisoned the present, creating a murky stew into which stumbles a naïve young person. Shades of Turn of the Screw, and pretty well any M R James ghost story.
As for the music, it is complicated and sounds as if Mr O’Dwyer was channelling Stephen Sondheim channelling Benjamin Britten – in other words lots of recitatives and no tunes, just phrases.
However all is not lost, even if the plot makes no sense. Daddy was a maker of mirrors who one day took his elder daughter aged under ten or thereabouts into his workshop and locked the door. There was a loud crash and when the door opened, out came daughter covered in blood and Daddy was dead.
This turns Mummy into a drunk, the younger sister grows-up to be a teenage slut and the blood-covered one behaves strangely. As they need to take in a lodger to survive they acquire Nathan, a nerd researching the work of an 18th century poet.
The performances save the day. Gillian Kirkpatrick is terrific as the mother not coping with what happened and the way her daughters have grown up helped by an awful lot of red wine. Grace Rowe and Molly McGuire are impressive as her damaged girls, while Jamie Muscato sings splendidly as dishy but dumb Nathan.
Add Graham Bickley as David, allegedly their other lodger, who hangs around the place for reasons one can guess although I will not give the obvious away, and one has a first rate cast to relish.
The set is handsome; the musicians play Mr O’Dwyer’s work well and while one never finds out what happened behind that locked door it all seem to end happily enough. But oh for a tune or two. It is after all, a musical.
Anna: Gillian Kirkpatrick.
David: Graham Bickley.
Laura: Grace Rowe.
Lily: Molly McGuire.
Nathan: Jamie Muscato.
Young Lily: Charlotte Pourret Wythe/Isabelle Doherty.
Young Laura: Sophie Pourret Wythe/Ella Doherty.
Director: Ryan McBryde.
Designer: David Woodhead.
Lighting: Matt Haskins.
Sound: Leigh Davies.
Musical Director: David Randall.