Review: Into The Mirror
Into the Mirror is a new Australian play that explores the transgender experience.
But rather than focusing on the physical transformation, it delves into the murky waters where your family and loved ones struggle to accept your new identity. It confronts the perception that any of this is easy and delivers the truth that it is extremely complicated.
There have been transgender characters that have strut their time upon the stage – Hedwig comes to mind – but playwright Shelley Wall’s protagonist is rather less flamboyant. He is a simple veterinarian. Okay, he dresses like Bogart and spouts flowery dialogue but he’s hardly outrageous, except perhaps for the fees he might charge to save Fido.
Inspired by a real life episode that saw the writer directly involved in assisting a male transition into his workplace as a woman, it is clear that Wall knows her subject and wants to pen her observations with insight and honesty.
The bruised heart of the play is the relationship between Sally – now Kendall – (Penny Day) and her daughter Melanie (Amber Robinson). While Melanie is an edgy woman fronting a chart climbing rock band she is aghast that her mum has lopped off her breasts and removed any mementos of her past life. Melanie has yet to come to terms with the choices her mother has made and is reeling from the loss of someone worthy of imitation according to her specific criteria.
Wall uses this relationship as a jumping off point to explore such issues as lesbian relationships, rape, incest, adoption, abortion and any number of situations a woman may face in her lifetime. Despite Wall’s good ear for dialogue, regrettably the play begins to stretch too far and ultimately turns in on itself.
The major flaw is that it is difficult to believe that anyone could mistake Day as a man. This becomes especially problematic when we are asked to invest in his new relationship with a woman, Tyler (Helen Stuart). I should add this is not entirely due to miscasting.
Still, while not always sure footed, I think Wall has written something that might spark a meaningful conversation. Craft can be worked on, but Wall actually has something to say.
King Street Theatre, Newtown. Until December 15. Bookings: www.kingstreettheatre.com.au