Written in 1940, this little known play by J.B. Priestley (An Inspector Calls, Benighted) is a supernatural mystery (astral travelling to be precise) set in a small private hotel deep in the Welsh Hills.

To be frank, it is not an easy play to stage, especially as there is no change of scenery throughout the action. While this is no doubt good news for any set designer, it proves a challenge for any director as well as the actors to keep the action going in a flowing manner. Not that there is much action to begin with, but Michael Friend’s production achieves impressive results thanks to a stellar cast and yes, the aforementioned singular set design – brilliantly and atmospherically conjured up by John Dalton. There is a real feel for period drama about it and it is an added bonus.

As for the story: the main character concerns Branwen Elder (Eva Gray believably pulls off a difficult and multi-layered part), who seems to know the most private thoughts of composer Michael Camber (David Manson) without ever having met him. When he arrives a little later, his troubled marriage and bad-tempered outbursts are nothing compared to what the encounter with the strange Branwen holds in store. For Branwen seems to know him better than Michael knows himself, a man forever lost as to what he wants both in artistic as well as in private life.
Tension is added when his wife Valerie (Amanda Sterkenburg) arrives, right in the middle of an ‘intimate conversation’ between her husband and Branwen. Suffice to say, the scenario does little to ease Michael’s troubled marriage to Valerie, a woman who cannot be without him but pretends the opposite.

There are several tongue-in-cheek references to witchcraft and ghostly appearances especially in the first act, namely between the ‘otherwordly’ Branwen and fellow guest Mrs. Tenbury (Audrey Nicholson), a bubbly elderly lady more interested in gambling and down-to-earth conversation. The second act is when the action really gets going, although things are occasionally hampered by lengthy dialogue and especially toward the end a repetitive topic seems to stand in its own way. Nonetheless, all is wonderfully held together by Simon Purdey as Thomas Williams, the hotel’s ‘Master of Everything’ – spurting out witty and acid-laced lines that hilariously break up the underlying supernatural atmosphere and domestic quarrels.

The Long Mirror runs until 6th of February at Pentameters Theatre, with shows Tuesday to Sunday.
For further info and ticket prices contact the box office on 0207-435-3648

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