A Mirror by Sam Holcroft is a mind-bending, deeply human metatheatrical narrative that focuses a lens on the effects of censorship, reality in media and the impact good stories can have on people. 

4th wall-breaking meta-narratives are nothing new to theatre, but ones that can use their meta powers to make deeper comments on stories themselves and the lens through which these stories are viewed are rare to see.

Sam Holcroft’s A Mirror initially establishes itself as depicting the wedding of couple Leyla and Joel with the audience acting as wedding guests, however, it is made quickly apparent that this wedding is a ruse being put on to trick a fascistic government that rules the narratives world, with the real play being put on by the fake bride, groom and officiants containing illegal themes and ideals due to the government censorship.

The play's central theme is that of storytelling and the power good stories can hold. Celik (Jonny Lee Miller) is head of the Ministry of Culture and is responsible for ensuring that all art shown adheres to the government's censorship guidelines.

Adem (Samuel Adewunmi), a young, once soldier now car mechanic, is an aspiring playwright who catches Celik’s eye for his unique potential. Both characters hold a love for storytelling yet Adem's writing is far too truthful and naturalistic, containing heavy profanity and content that doesn't meet the government’s guidelines.

The debate as to whether stories should be told truthfully to paint an accurate picture of an event, or lavishly and dramatically to further intrigue and engagement is dealt with profoundly. In a time where fake news and overt media censorship are prevalent in many parts of the world, stories that highlight the dangers and trappings of such things are essential.

Miller and Adewunmi are brilliantly captivating, with Miller easily jumping from charming to despicable whenever needed and Adewunmi portraying a scarred war veteran fantastically. Tanya Reynolds portrays Mei, Celcik's assistant and Geoffrey Streatfeild plays Bax, a disgruntled playwright. Both are brilliant in their respective roles adding much-needed comic relief to scenes whilst showcasing a different perspective on authors and audiences.

The play's most noteworthy trick is its manipulative meta-narrative structure. Having actors portray multiple different characters and realities, some real within the context of the story and others fake can cause audiences to sometimes be confused as to whether what they are watching is part of the show or not. At one point during the proceedings of the show, actors had to be hurried off stage due to an undisclosed issue.

During any other play, this would have disrupted the whole experience and made the audience far less captivated when it eventually resumed. This disruption however worked perfectly within the context of the play as the actors could have been hiding from police who were after them for their illegal performance, causing audiences to wonder whether what was happening was part of the actual play or not.

This ability to blend reality with fiction is the key factor that makes A Mirror so outstanding. Making it hard for audiences to tell the differences between fiction and reality, combined with the audience themselves being entities within the play envelopes them deeply within the play's narrative and allows its central themes and issues to be felt deeply by all. A culturally relevant thought-provoking must-watch.

  • This article has been written by Julian Barker, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter scheme.