Mirabel review at Ovalhouse, London – ‘bleakness and humour, tenderness and care’
It’s been four years since theatremaker Chris Goode gave us a solo show – Men in the Cities in 2014 – but the long wait has been worth it.
Mirabel is the story of a little girl’s journey through a post-apocalyptic world, a grown-up fairytale whose blend of bleakness, humour and almost-whimsy will be familiar to fans of the playwright’s work.
Goode sets the scene before bombarding us with a magnificent and terrible soundscape that leaves us in doubt as to the hopelessness of the situation in which this eight-year-old girl finds herself.
Sound designer Matt Padden complements Goode’s storytelling beautifully here and throughout the show. Lighting designer Lee Curran’s gradual reveal of Naomi Dawson’s multi-layered set is just as integral to the action, with director Rebecca McCutcheon taking Goode further and further from us, increasingly obscured by the set as he recounts Mirabel’s response to the devastation that surrounds her.
There are no happy endings in this allegory of helplessness at the state of the world, yet Mirabel’s concern for others and delight in small things perhaps offer a flicker of hope for the future. There’s certainly plenty to enjoy in Goode’s writing, which grounds us absolutely in Mirabel’s grim new reality while also demonstrating an awareness of itself as an act of storytelling.
As a performer too, Goode excels. There’s a tenderness and care in his delivery of this sometimes back-breakingly heavy material that makes us feel looked after as an audience. This is a show you walk out of feeling a little bit lost, but at least you know you’re not alone in that feeling.