Two Way Mirror follows a seemingly simple formula: two plays, two actors. Thus, the quality of these two elements is key for an enjoyable evening of theatre. While Louisa Iselin and Saul Lowndes Britton provided strong performances, Arthur Miller’s scripts, unfortunately, did not inspire or impress.
The first play, Eulogy of a Lady, centres around a man who walks into a shop looking for a gift for his dying lover. The conversation that ensues between him and the proprietress makes him confront some uncomfortable truths and the two eventually reach an understanding about the situation. Saul Lowndes Britton portrays the grief and agony of the man well, with restless physicality emphasising these emotions. Iselin’s proprietress is an anti-pole to Lowndes Britton’s dynamic performance. Her calm and composed proprietress is, however, too stationary at times. The progression of both characters could also have been portrayed more clearly.
Thanks to the clever traverse stage, it soon becomes clear who holds the role of ‘two way mirror’: the audience. A set by Ilia Strigari’s is convincing in its simplicity: the same pieces of furniture – a sofa, two chairs, two tables and a clothes mannequin – were quickly converted from a shop to a bedroom where the second play ‘Some kind of Love’ is set. The costumes were similarly versatile. In this second play, detective Tom O’Toole thinks that prostitute Angela with whom he had an extra-marital affair is holding the key information to a murder case, in which he believes a man was innocently convicted.
It is here that the actors particularly shine: Louisa Iselin’s emotional range is particularly impressive. It is no mean feat to portray a schizophrenic prostitute with split personalities but Iselin’s performance rises to the challenge. If I were to offer some advice, it would be that the differences between the prostitute’s distinct personalities could have been brought out even more. Lowndes Britton convinces with a dynamic, emotional performance and a great accent (both of the actors’ American accents deserve much praise). This production thrives on its actors’ performances, but Miller’s script is simply too long and too confusing, much like Tom O’Toole’s efforts to attain the unattainable in his relationship with Angela.
In sum, Arthur Miller is not at his best in Two Way Mirror. On the other hand, director Aimée Emma Kwan has worked hard to provide two great Oxford talents with a well-designed stage in the BT studio; there they showcase two impressive performances.