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The House of Mirrors and Hearts

Grace Rowe in The House of Mirrors and Hearts at the Arcola. Photo: Darren Bell Grace Rowe in The House of Mirrors and Hearts at the Arcola. Photo: Darren Bell
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Despite its Mills and Boon title, this new musical by Eamonn O’Dwyer and Rob Gilbert is a visceral melodrama exploring the dark secrets of a dysfunctional family. Since the mysterious death of her husband, Anna has taken in lodgers to help support both her daughters and an escalating red wine habit. Academic Nathan arrives expecting cheap digs and solitude but he is soon embroiled in network of secrets and lies that is gradually destroying the three women.

Originally a single-act musical, this piece has been developed by Perfect Pitch, blossoming into a two-act drama featuring a haunting, memorable score from O’Dwyer. The metaphors may be a little heavy-handed in places but this is countered by solid construction, thoughtful character development and a touch of wit to lighten the mood in all the right places.

Grace Rowe and Molly McGuire are diversely enigmatic as siblings Laura and Lily, but Gillian Kirkpatrick delivers a barnstorming performance as their embittered, alcoholic mother Anna. Psychological drama is notoriously difficult to pull off as a musical but all the elements here are spot-on, from David Woodhead’s atmospheric setting to Ryan McBryde’s fluid direction that seamlessly knits together the passing of time.

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Verdict
Meticulously constructed psychological thriller complemented by a gripping score and a cast that knows how to exploit it
Paul Vale
Paul has been writing for The Stage since 1998 as a critic and feature writer. He is also part of The Stage's Edinburgh Fringe review team.
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