Short but not so sweet, The Mirror Never Lies is a musical about the power of beauty and the pangs of desire, but sadly fails to fully capture the swinging sixties of London.
Based on the novel The Sweet Dove Died by Barbra Pym, it follows the tale is of middle-aged socialite, Leonora, who finds falls in love with a younger man instead of his more “age appropriate” older uncle. Finding the young man is already intertwined with a girl, she uses her deviousness to crush the young woman’s hopes only to discover a second, male suitor has secured the young man for himself using her very own strategy.
A new chamber musical with a score by Juan Iglesias and book by Joe Guiffre, the songs sadly do little to conjure the 1960s period in which it’s set, and the lyrics lack imagination too. The set and staging is sadly a little underwhelming too; the cockpit is a large space and the sparse set seemed only to highlight how reduced the characters seemed in comparison to Pym’s original. The only props were a set of office chairs, meaning the cast were left to mime the most simplest of actions, like pouring a drink. Minimalism is all well and done, but not with a musical that is trying to showcase the high-life of the wealthy and exuberant.
There are some isssues with staging too. Why play out the action on a balcony when the traverse stage already swallows up the cast, let alone the fact the most the audience need to crane their necks to see what’s happening up there. More baffling still, why have an entire song sung offfstage while an unnecessary dinner scene takes place onstage?
It’s not all bad, though. Leonora is played by Francesca Ellis with real verve and gives the final number a shot of well needed pizazz. There is potential for a great story here, but it feels too much like a work-in-progress at the moment.
The Mirror never lies plays at the Cockpit Theatre until 18th November
Pearl Gerald and Isabel De La Cruz