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Circle Mirror Transformation, HOME - Review

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Im a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/david-keyworth/49/b3a/b83
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Cracks in the Glass
There are a lot of silences in Annie Baker's play. Mostly these silences elicit audience laughter but, as the evening progresses, they take on a more poignant significance.

Amelia Bullmore's TV roles include DCI Gill Murray in Scott & Bailey and Sonja - Alan Partridge's animated girlfriend.

She plays Marty - a drama teacher at a Vermont community centre. The action focuses on a weekly evening class, attended by four intrepid souls.

Circle Mirror Transformation, HOME, Manchester, theatre
Amelia Bullmore (Marty) and Sian Clifford (Teresa) in Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker, directed by Bijan Sheibani, at HOME Manchester, Fri 2 - Sat 17 March 2018. (Photo by Marc Brenner)


Schultz (Con O'Neill) is the most immediately endearing character. He is a gauche but sincere carpenter who seems to have joined the group to meet new people, after his marriage break up.

Teresa (Sian Clifford) is a former actress who has moved from New York to Vermont, to put behind her a relationship which, in Schultz's phrase, was "toxic."

Lauren is a 16-year-old aspiring actress. Hers is the the least developed role. She is something of an outsider and accidental intruder on the entanglements of her middle-aged classmates.

Circle Mirror Transformation, HOME, Manchester, theatre
Yasmin Paige (Lauren) in Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker, directed by Bijan Sheibani, at HOME Manchester, Fri 2 - Sat 17 March 2018. (Photo by Marc Brenner)


Yasmin Paige makes up for Lauren's lack of dialogue by conveying her reactions in glances and self-consciousness in her hunched posture. As the play develops she gradually starts to find her own voice and express her opinions.

In one hilariously excruciating scene, Lauren is made to embody a baseball glove in Schultz's recreation of his childhood bedroom.

Circle Mirror Transformation, HOME, Manchester, theatre
Amelia Bullmore (Marty) and Anthony Ofoegbu (James) in Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker, directed by Bijan Sheibani, at HOME Manchester, Fri 2 - Sat 17 March 2018. (Photo by Marc Brenner


Anthony Ofoegbu also conveys unease with aplomb, without actually saying much. He is Marty's husband, James. He looks as though he has been guilt-tripped into making up the numbers in his wife's class.

Annie Baker's play was first performed in New York in 2009. There are warnings of 'strong language' in the HOME foyer. This made me think we were in for a night of 'edgy comedy' - which can often mean self-important theatre. Instead, Annie Baker's comedy comes from the way real life is just exaggerated a little bit to unlock the humour.

It's the kind of comedy which Amelia Bullmore played effortlessly in the BBC 'Olympic Deliverance' spoof Twenty Twelve.

Circle Mirror Transformation, Amelia Bullmore, HOME, Manchester, theatre
Amelia Bullmore (Marty, foreground), Sian Clifford (Theresa), and Anthony Ofoegbu (James) in Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker, directed by Bijan Sheibani, at HOME Manchester, Fri 2 - Sat 17 March 2018. (Photo by Marc Brenner)


The laughs in Circle Mirror Transformation don't come at the expense of mocking the characters and their predicaments and aspirations. We want to find out how their real emotions will interplay with the acting - or should that be icebreaker - exercises Marty requires of them.

Marty is a fascinating character. She wears an enigmatic smile, which leaves us wondering if the class members are serving her ulterior purposes or if she is the main victim of her apparent need for the group to reveal more and more of their inner lives.

Circle Mirror Transformation, directed by Bijan Sheibani, runs for one hour and forty five minutes without an interval. Its linear structure could make it feel plodding. This isn't the case because of the injection of a little more tension into the group dynamic with each short scene

The awkward silences are intrinsic to the drama and not a result of stilted acting and audience indifference. The cast members must have learnt a lot at drama school.

Circle Mirror Transformation, HOME, Manchester, theatre
Left to right: Yasmin Paige (Lauren), Sian Clifford (Teresa), Anthony Ofoegbu (James), Amelia Bullmore (Marty) and Con O'Neill (Schultz) in Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker, directed by Bijan Sheibani, at HOME Manchester, Fri 2 - Sat 17 March 2018. (Photo by Marc Brenner)

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Why? Touching Play about Vermont Drama Class
When: Until 17th March
Phone: 0161 200 1500
Where: HOME 2 Tony Wilson Place First Street MANCHESTER M15 4FN
Cost: From £10
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