Pros: Mirabel is a highly original and emotionally affecting tale of loss and learning.
Cons: The abstract narrative can be challenging and sometimes hard to follow.
The end of the world has rarely been a cheerful affair. In films, television, novels, and of course, the Bible, the apocalyptic event has usually been described in terms of fiery chaos, fractured earth, and the horror of mass death. We are not short of inspiration for such imaginings, whether looking to the past, the present and, given recent speculation on the climate, the very near future. But what if the end of the world was not cause for despair, but for reflection, renewal, and a few laughs at the absurdity of it all?
Mirabel is a dystopian tale unlike any other. Written and performed entirely by Chris Goode, the play tells the story of a young girl who wakes up to the apocalypse and tries to find a grown-up. In her searching, all she will find are the broken and the lost. Goode relates the experiences of Mirabel as she navigates the wreckage, with warmth, wit, and wonderfully weird poetry. What happens is not necessarily easy to explain, but is beautiful nonetheless.
The play explores what it means to live in a world that can feel strange and scary, lonely and loving. Goode’s writing is a marvel, blending evocative imagery with wry humour to create a narrative language that is vivid and rich with meaning. He is a charming stage presence and powerful orator, drawing audiences in like a fire-side storyteller, recounting Mirabel’s tale of innocence lost and inner strength learned.
The production is a technical triumph of sound, visuals, and design. The world is realised by a score from Matt Padden that ranges from heart-tugging sentimentality to punishing noise, and an ingenious use of screens and lighting to show Mirabel’s progress, provided by Naomi Dawson and Lee Curran, respectively. Lou Sumray also deserves credit for her stirring animation, which enhances and uplifts Mirabel’s story at a key point in the narrative.
Mirabel is a unique vision which may not suit all tastes. The story, while beautifully rendered, does not lend itself to easy interpretation and may lose audience members with its abstract, unusual, and sometimes grotesque language and imagery. One scene is particularly, deliberately abrasive, and while this may delight fans of extreme noise and performance art, it left this viewer with a head full of aches rather than opinions.
Mirabel is a worthwhile but challenging watch. The play uses the idea of dystopian displacement to explore anxieties about existence, sorrow, loss, and friendship, and it’s told with writing that is as brilliant as it is bizarre.
Author: Chris Goode
Director: Rebecca McCutcheon
Producer: Helen Mugridge
Box Office: 020 7582 7680
Booking Link: https://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/mirabel
Booking Until: 17th November 2018