‘The House of Mirrors and Hearts’ was poignant.
It was a evening of firsts on Thursday night for newly formed theatre company, Kleva Hive; first opening night, first audience and, for many who made up the audience, it was the first time they ever saw a production of ‘The House of Mirrors and Hearts’. This musical, that most people have never heard of, is a hidden gem in the theatre world, slotting perfectly into an Australian context. Every element of the set, lighting, costuming and props worked cohesively to tell a story that puts the extremities of human emotion on display. “All the women in this house are a disaster of their own design” was repeated throughout the production and truly captures the story of a dysfunctional family, torn apart by loss.
‘The House of Mirrors and Hearts’ explores the lives of a dysfunctional family who are haunted by the unexpected death of their father. Since the moment Laura was discovered with a blood spattered dress, holding a shard of glass above her dead father, the family has been festering in grief and blame. However, when an unwitting lodger joins the family, the house is forced to confront their past, reveal secrets and begin to heal wounds.
It is rare to watch a musical and have no clue which direction it’s heading, most have been performed so many times over that one subconsciously compares every moment to previous productions. ‘The House of Mirrors and Hearts’ allowed audiences to simply be present and discover the story at the same time as the characters. The intimate theatre at Metro Arts allowed spectators to feel as if they were looking into the living room of a family. Actors were able to fill the entire space with tension that was palpable to the audience.
This production didn’t call for an intricate lighting plot and it is to the credit of Director Dr Dan Jess for finding a way of using light as a story-telling method of its own. The simple stage wash alerted audiences to the passage of time by varying in intensity and a red hues punctuated the stage at poignant moments. It may have been nice to see a more choreographed sequence in the opening scene. The stage was immediately bathed in a straight wash as the characters replayed the moment when Young Laura (Tyallah Bullock) emerged from the workshop covered in blood, carrying a piece of shattered glass. For an image that is so visually striking, it may have been interesting to play with a less literal divulgence of the father’s death.
Thanks to an incredible three piece band, the music in ‘The House of Mirrors and Hearts’ was emotive and expertly played. While the band seemed to slightly overpower the actors in some of the quieter moments, the sound levels were generally well managed, allowing the skillfully composed score to shine.
It is rare to find a cast that slots together as perfectly as the one Director Dr. Dan Jess compiled for this production. In a small theatre there is nowhere to hide, however, this production allowed each actor to shine. Bonnie Fawcett (Laura) and Chris Kellett (David) delivered flawless vocals throughout the production, backed by emotional intensity. Fiona Buchanan allowed audiences to feel Anna’s pain and committed to every moment wholeheartedly.
Abigail Peace (Lily) was captivating on stage and delivered a performance that was nuanced and honest. Christopher Batkin (Nathan) did not waver in his execution for a single moment. It is difficult to trip, fumble and fall on stage with credibility yet Batkin accomplished this with great skill.
Tyallah Bullock (Young Laura) and Isabel Davies (Young Lily) were remarkably similar to their older counterparts and, although they were not on stage for long, it is clear these young actresses have a bright future ahead of them. While both actresses delivered a commendable performance, the script did lend itself to having younger actors playing these roles. Some of Davies’ lines felt a little unnatural simply because she was playing a character significantly younger than herself.
Next time you are at a loss for something to do on a weekend, why not go and support some independent theatre? ‘The House of Mirrors and Hearts’ not only entertained their audience but grappled with the love and hate of the human condition, leaving the audience with something to think about long after they left the theatre. Congratulations Kleva Hive on your first production, and thank you for providing a platform where stories can be told!
For more information on upcoming shows by Kleva Hive, visit their website at https://www.klevahive.com.au.