Director Bijan Sheibani works wonders on Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation at Home in Manchester
“Slow down and start noticing everyone around you”
A cheeky trip up north for this criminally short run of Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation at Home in Manchester, for a top-notch cast and a director – Bijan Sheibani – who when on form, is one of the country’s best. And here he really is at home in the unfussy naturalism and quiet intimacy of this deceptively striking play.
My abiding memory of the Royal Court’s 2013 production is not the amazing cast it also assembled – Staunton, Woolgar, Jones… – is that it was absolutely hotter than sin in the Rose Lipman Building where it was hosted. It was also a time when I didn’t really know who Annie Baker was. Or rather, a time before the hype around her wasn’t quite so overwhelming.
Now, the understated but undeniable rhythms of Baker’s writing are unmistakable. The unshowiness of the writing, the awkward stumbling around words, all those measured pauses. The descriptor ‘conversational’ somehow doesn’t quite do justice to the depth of the world that she constructs in what seems so inconsequential but much like Stefan Golaszewsk’s masterful work on Mum, so much meaning is freighted into every beat.
In less sure hands, the community centre drama class device might seem trite, its slow-developing relationships played for laughs. But in Sheibani’s astute work, in Samal Blak’s mirrored set which both heightens the theatricality and shatters it as neither characters nor audience can hide, the likes of Amelia Bullmore and Con O’Neill conjure minor miracles in their meticulous detail.