top of page
  • Chris O'Rourke

Circle Mirror Transformation

Niamh Cusack, Imogen Doel, Hazel Doupe, Risteárd Cooper, Marty Rea in Circle Mirror Transformation. Image Ros Kavanagh


Some meet for a reason, some for a season, some for life. Yet even ships that pass in the night make us better for having known them. The bittersweet lesson underlying Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker’s charming sit-com Circle Mirror Transformation. Baker’s tele-play styled script following a group of five people attending a drama class over a six week period. Played out over a series of acting exercises and tea breaks, what they learn about each other isn’t revealed in what they say, but in silences, secrets, the unspoken. Teased out, tricked out, coaxed into the light to be mirrored, healed and transformed. Ideally. For the road to redemption isn’t always an easy one, and where it leads might not be where you want to go.

Imogen Doel, Marty Rea, Risteárd Cooper, Hazel Doupe in Circle Mirror Transformation. Image Ros Kavanagh

While Circle Mirror Transformation doesn’t sing exclusively to the theatre choir, it resonates more deeply with those who’ve been through the drama workshop experience. The Boal games and Meisner exercises, the icebreakers meant to free participants who often wonder why they don’t have a script in hand and why they aren’t engaged in real acting. Lying on the floor counting to ten. Creating tableau images from their life. Recounting someone’s story back to them. Sharing secrets in unsafe ways. People left open, vulnerable and raw, often unsure what to do with what the exercise brings to the surface. Still, the eternally youthful Niamh Cusack as Marty, sporting a perma-smile of encouragement for her floundering class, is blind in her belief that drama makes a difference. A superb Risteárd Cooper as her self-aggrandising husband James, trying to salvage their marriage, tries half heartedly to engage. A brilliant Marty Rea as recently divorced carpenter Schultz, and a flawless Imogen Doel as the uber-commited, hula-hooping Theresa more than make up for James’s self-indulgent narcissism giving each lesson their all, hoping no one sees what they don’t want them to know. Meanwhile Hazel Doupe’s Goth-like Lauren, a sixteen year old aspiring actress, listens in silence with teenage vulnerability writ large on her uniform of black. All working their way to the final day of class when everything, and everyone, will be made different.

Niamh Cusack and Risteárd Cooper in Circle Mirror Transformation. Image Ros Kavanagh

Whilst the classroom format has many precedents, an overriding sense of The Kominsky Method meets The Breakfast Club looms throughout, right down to the popular girl and the silent, dark dressed geek. Five awkward archetypes in a classroom environment looking for answers to life. If Baker’s televisual script relies heavily on blackouts and short scenes, her writing has a brutal, mesmerising economy that’s hugely refreshing. Róisín McBrinn directing life into Baker’s taut script by eliciting five impeccably detailed performance. Still, the traverse arrangement, with the audience sitting either side of Paul Keogan’s stage mirroring each other, frustrates more than facilitates. And given these are such gorgeously judged, rigorously detailed performances, being frustrated by poor sight lines, or listening to someone’s expressionless back, doesn’t sit well. Which proves too often the case.

Imogen Doel, Niamh Cusack, Risteárd Cooper, Marty Rea, Hazel Doupe in Circle Mirror Transformation. Image Ros Kavanagh

Offering drama as drama therapy, Circle Mirror Transformation is safe bet, no risk theatre. Aside from its Pulitzer pedigree, its story of humans trying to make sense of life is supremely relatable and enjoyable. Made irresistible by McBrinn and an ensemble delivering pitch perfect performances. It might be a no frills script, but there’s immense depth to Baker’s humorous and heartfelt slices of life as her flawed characters discover themselves through drama. Ensuring Circle Mirror Transformation is a genuine joy from beginning to end.

Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker, presented by The Gate Theatre runs at The Gate Theatre until June 30th.

For more information visit The Gate Theatre


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
bottom of page