Photo: Marc Brenner

‘This play is a lie’, the programme boldly tells us as we enter the auditorium, and from the off A Mirror is never quite what it seems. There’s a wedding theme as soon as we enter the Trafalgar Theatre – balloons adorn the stairway down to the stalls, and there’s a portrait of the happy couple proudly on display. The tannoy doesn’t announce the start of the play; instead we’re informed when the ceremony is going to begin.

As the programme suggests, all is not as it seems and the wedding conceit is indeed swiftly exposed as a facade. We find ourselves in the culture ministry of an authoritarian regime – it’s not quite 1984 but we’re certainly in a dystopian alternative reality here. A senior official at the ministry, Čelik (Jonny Lee Miller), is secretly working to develop a promising new playwright, Adem (Samuel Adewumni), whose debut script is impressive but would never get past state censors. Junior assistant Mei (Tanya Reynolds) is roped into rehearsed readings as Adem’s writing develops over the course of the play.

But that’s not all – A Mirror keeps its audience guessing throughout, teasing us with a series of false realities. There are so many play-within-a-play layers that we’re never quite sure whether what we’re watching is true or whether there is going to be a further reveal. It’s gripping stuff and we were genuinely never quite sure how it was going to end.

The Trafalgar Theatre (for those who’ve not been recently – beautifully restored to its former art deco splendour, having spent many years converted into two smaller studio theatres) is the perfect setting for this play to unfold. Taking place on Whitehall, a stone’s throw from Parliament and Downing Street, it neatly skewers the practices of authoritarian regimes. There are plenty of timely political nods throughout the show.

We had a great evening with A Mirror – clocking in at two hours without an interval it can feel like a bit of an endurance test at times, but it has a great message and it’s thoughtfully presented. Given the somewhat bleak subject matter it is surprisingly funny, and it kept us guessing right through to the very end – thrilling stuff.

GAY TIMES gives A Mirror – 4/5

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