The Two Way Mirror is an Arthur Miller production featuring two plays – ‘Elegy of a Lady’ and ‘Some Kind of Love’. Walking around the grounds in Magdalen with the Aimée Kwan, the director, and the two-man cast of Louisa Iselin and Saul Lowndes Britton, I have the chance to learn more about the ideas the group have brought to the play and the insights they have on Miller’s themes of love, loss and relationships.
Each play explores a relationship between a man and a woman and the clear thing that comes across from our discussion is the complexity of the characters in both. Saul explains how “all the characters in the play, no matter who’s in power, all have their own issues, and there is a sense that there’s an undercurrent that they have to deal with”. Louisa agrees – “you can’t come away with cut and dry opinions on who they are as people and I think what makes it interesting for an audience is that it’s one of those plays where it’s both very difficult to sympathise with the characters a lot of the time, and very easy.” Even when chatting about their characters it is clear that the actors have mixed feelings towards them, and they are sure that this will be evoked in the audience too. Louisa assures me that “at the ending I think you leave not really knowing how to feel.”
In both plays Miller tackles tough themes of love and the complexities of relationships. Although the plays are vastly different, thematically they explore the idea of trying to really get to grips with other people. The first play is about two people who have never met each other before and the second one involves two people who have known each other for 5 years. Yet, as Saul explains, “you get the sense that in the first play they know each other better than in the second.” Miller toys with the idea of strangers understanding each other on an emotional level, and for Louisa the “plays reflects how knowing someone better and becoming closer to someone doesn’t necessarily equate to understanding them.” I ask the group about how they feel the plays relate to modern day experiences of relationships in the age of Tinder. Immediately ideas of “reluctance to attachment”, “personal guarding” and “anonymity” are banded around – Miller seems to anticipate issues of our time.
Louisa assures me that “at the ending I think you leave not really knowing how to feel.”
Aimée then explains the choice of setting to me – the first play is in the 40s, with jazzy music and the second in the early 70s. Both reflect the moods of the pieces with the first more reflective and melancholic during war time, and the second far open and “mental”. But again, it seems that the themes and insights behind the plays are universal and relatable, whatever the era – “We’ve picked a setting for each play to help give it a bit of flavour, but to a certain extent it’s one of things where you can take it out of that setting and the important thing is just the interaction between those two people.”
Finally, on returning towards the college, we discuss the title of ‘the two-way mirror’ exploring ideas of interrogation of oneself, the emotional interrogation of another, and the audience’s participation in this exploration into the characters. From what I’ve heard from the cast and director The Two Way Mirror looks set to be a moving and eye-opening play.
On from the 31st Jan – 4th Feb get your tickets here – https://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/whats-on/all-shows/two-way-mirror/4631/#schedules