views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Leicester Square Thatre
29th March 2018


We might be a generation obsessed with selfies and instragramming absolutely everything we eat, but that doesn't mean we're not eisoptrophobes too. A flattering angle here, a filter there... Don't we look fabulous? The problem with mirrors in their purest form is that they force us to see who we really are, and sometimes we're not ready to deal with the non-photoshopped reality of our lives. Just ask Snow White's stepmother - a mirror can drive you crazy on a bad day. Siobhan McMillan's one-woman show Mirrors examines female self-worth with a feminist bent, first through her portrayal of modern day vlogger ShyGirl and then fairytale witch Shivers.

McMillan is a talented storyteller, moving between registers quickly and making effective use of pauses to create side-splitting laughter. She's undeniably at her best as a fed up witch offering a sarcastic and at times self-pitying commentary, tracking down beauty rivals like Bitch Face and struggling to figure out who has usurped her as fairest of them all. When Shivers lashes out verbally, McMillan provokes her biggest roars from the audience. Whilst the more honest among us will admit to regularly experiencing similar angry inner monologues, McMillan's writing is sharp enough not to have to rely on our recognition to prompt our laughter.

Fully understanding the feminist message running through the show hinges on realising that Shivers is an extension of ShyGirl, but the penny doesn't immediately drop. Although it's entirely possible that we miss some subtlety of McMillan's performance from where we are in the house, the poor sightlines are well-known and director Gabi Maddocks doesn't do anything to address this difficulty in getting McMillan's intention across. With a one-person show, performers can sometimes struggle to differentiate out the many different characters they portray. Here, McMillan is almost too successful in splitting out the main character from her alter ego - the lack of clear connection hinders our engagement.

It does feel like after redeveloping this show following previous runs, McMillan has focussed on tweaking the finer detail to the detriment of the bigger picture. At only an hour straight through, there's not a lot of fat to cut, but there are still points where she briefly loses our interest. Some of her character's rambling might be an intentional shaggy dog tale, but it's visible that she labours the point too much for her audience's comfort. McMillan does however always manage to win back the room with a wonderfully witty remark or unexpected push against the fourth wall.

Although fairytales were never really for children (if your mind lingers on any of these stories, you'll appreciate how gruesome they really are), the use of bubbles is a nice touch. It also gets the audience looking up at the ceiling and around at each other, taking their attention away from the restricted view of the stage. Other than the missed transition between ShyGirl and Shivers, the restricted view is generally only a problem in this show to the extent that the audience worry it might be - when we stop desperately craning their necks to try to see what exactly McMillan is doing, we realise we'll all see enough for the humour to still land.

Mirrors is a really fun show which reminds us how ridiculous some of our insecurities are, without making us in turn feel stupid. A highly relatable piece; this an hour well spent.

Mirrors opened on 28th March and runs until 11th April 2018 at the Leicester Square Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)

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