The House of Mirrors and Hearts Arcola Review
“The House of Mirrors and Hearts.” Well the clue is pretty much in the title. A dysfunctional family lives in house (stairs and all!) with a few mirrors and a sense of broken hearted gloom and doom hanging over the place. The plotline is similarly as see-through as the title of the show, but one must put aside their cynicism to congratulate the creation of an engaging new British musical.
I was a fan of Eamonn O’Dwyer’s music, which passed the hummable tune test to me. There were some definite stand out numbers such as Anna’s rip-roaring “Something for the Pain,” which was expertly performed by powerhouse Gillian Kirkpatrick. However, I couldn’t help but feel there was just a little too much music in the piece. Do we need 23 songs in in a two hour performance that aims to create moments of tension, only to dash them as the piano pipes up? Probably not.
There was some real talent amid the cast; Kirkpatrick plays a fantastic wine soaked, wilted matriarch, Jamie Muscato was wildly impressive as lodger Nathan – not only did his voice carry melodies well, his acting was spot on. Molly McGuire fulfilled the role of Lily with gusto and the two young actresses playing young sisters Lily and Laura (REAL sisters Charlotte and Sophie Pourret Wythe) were exceptional.
Whilst I enjoyed Grace Rowe’s stage presence as the wary and woeful grown up Laura, I could not quite say the same for her singing voice. Unfortunately a few notes were missed here and there, throwing off tunes that were intended to be haunting.
Despite having a predictable story-line and plot twists as well as being musically over seasoned, I DID enjoy the show. There is something watchable and engaging here; I like the concept of the mirrors and the seven years bad luck cycle and I was moved by the lingering sense of melancholy, especially that reflected in the score. I just feel that creators Robert Gilbert and O Dwyer should work on heightening tension and creating a truly haunting tone for their piece rather than adhering to any kind of prescribed musical theatre format. With some extra thought and re-staging this piece could be great.