“To walk on mirror water is to walk on sky.”
Stepping into Union Theatre, I see a lake. Onstage. Filled with water and reflecting the stars from a screen that falls to the floor behind it. This is a recreation of Lake Tyrell, the subject of Mirror’s Edge, and it is breathtaking. Throughout the play the screen changes from stars, to clouds, to trees – always reflected in the water of the lake on stage. As the actors walk across the water, they walk on the reflected sky.
Mirror’s Edge is set in three different time periods with the scenes and eras often overlapping. Martin Hoggart, Eleanor Young and Antonia Yip Siew Pin’s characters live in the 1850s, Lucy Holz and Jo Chen in the 1960s, and Rebecca Poynton, Rachel Shrives and Eden Gonfond in 2017. The lake is the focal point and allows the characters and the story to transcend time. It links them across the ages and the cultures that they are ignorant of. It is “Everywhen”.
Kim Ho’s writing is funny, poignant and educative. I feel privileged to have seen a play by someone who is undoubtedly one of the future greats in Australian theatre. His insight into human nature allows for hilarious exchanges that play with expectation and stereotype, and his language and imagery are fresh. His seamless incorporation of multiple cultures and languages in the play does not jar; the sections in Cantonese and Mandarin that I did not understand were just as mesmerizing as that which I did. I also found myself learning about Boorong culture and science and realising how little I knew about Indigenous Australia. It is rare to be made aware of your ignorance without feeling attacked and yet Kim pulls this off. Each of his characters is nuanced; each has some kindness and some ignorance – and it is clear that it is ignorance, not malice, which drives them. This allows the audience to empathise with the characters more easily and willingly.
Every one of the eight cast members was dedicated to their role, moving, and transporting to watch. However the standouts for me were Eden Gonfond and Antonia Yip Siew Pin. Antonia is so believably from another time and her sharp focus and raw emotion are haunting. Eden inhabits his character completely and, through that, is enthralling in his honesty and magnetism. His and Rebecca Poynton’s delivery in an argument towards the end of the play is quick, dry, and humorous and then goosebump-inducing once their anger hits.
Another success was the cast’s ability to story-tell. Often the description of action offstage can lag or take the audience out of the moment, but the strong storytelling skills of the cast prevent this. Rachel Shrives in particular has a scene where she relates an incident about her dog that feels as if we’ve actually seen it. She plays a stereotypical ‘bogan’ with truth and vulnerability, allowing us to believe her as a real person and to care as she relates the story.
The only criticism I have of the entire piece is that in the beginning and end sections the cast talk so quickly that at times it is difficult to process what one person has said before the other starts.
Mirror’s Edge is a lesson in empathy and the humanity of ignorance. It seems to hold the power to actually improve the world in just over an hour and the exploration of belonging, definitions, and authority makes it the perfect play to see right now.
Union House Theatre’s Mirror’s Edge runs from July 27th – August 5th in the Union Theatre