Looking Glass

Looking Glass - photo by Pier CarthewLike it or not, humans have times of negotiating with (or worrying about) our family. Looking Glass by VCA Writing for Performance graduate Louris van de Geer seems to graze across this essential human requirement. However, the viewing experience feels like viewing vintage photos of relatives; we get a general sense of the scene whilst finding the images somewhat blurry.

Looking Glass aims to be a theatrical exploration of Charles Horton Cooley’s Looking-Glass Self theory proposed in 1902. The play’s programme summarises this as: “I am not who I am, nor who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am”.

We are invited to think about this in watching the family of Mother (Daniela Farinacci), Father (Peter Houghton) and Child (Daniel O’Neill or Thomas Taylor). Following Child’s difficult behaviour, they enter a facility to undertake observation. The parents wear earpieces to take occasional instruction from the oddly named Voice (Josh Price), who we could see at various times as he became part of the action.

Much of this occurred on a white floor with scant furniture. Open towards the audience, the space was enclosed on its back and sides by tall curtains of yellow plastic strips, the kind used to guard a fish and chip shop’s door. Although the programme mentioned a one-way mirror, all characters could readily see – and move – through the curtains.

In some early scenes, family interactions led to the observation space being flooded with either a green or red light, suggestive of external judgement of behaviour as acceptable or not. This feedback was abandoned quite early on, and seemed to have little bearing on the piece as a whole.

Various inconsistencies combined to deprive Looking Glass of any convincing internal logic. Consequently, it felt like a collection of barely connected vignettes with the odd dash of symbolism. Whilst the programme might have intended us to see the piece as ‘brutal’, ‘frightening’ or ‘humorous’ (clearly not to the opening night audience), the play struggled for traction. As we were not given sufficient direction by the writing to form expectations, these cannot be profitably undermined.

The show was originally advertised as having a run time of 70-80 minutes, yet finished in around 60. In judging a piece of work, I guess it doesn’t matter how long it is, it matters how long you think it is. On reflection, this Looking Glass needs a grind and polish if it is to present an audience with a clearer view of its themes.

Looking Glass
fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 3 August 2017 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 13 August 2017
Bookings: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com

For more information, visit: www.newworkinggroup.org for details.

Image: Thomas Taylor (on ground), Peter Houghton, and Daniella Farinacci feature in Looking Glass – photo by Pier Carthew

Review: Jason Whyte