Performance review: The Mirror, Sydney Opera House

Circus, choreography and cabaret combine in this unmissable show.

The Mirror is reminiscent of the nostalgic joy of a first time at the circus, without the clowns or cabaret. Instead, it is just audacious, pure, mind-bending acrobatics, choreographed on the point of a pin by director Darcy Grant. Clocking a punchy 70 minutes of talented athletes standing four-atop each other, throwing bodies in the air with no safety nets, and pulling every available trick from the boxes of professional cheerleading and gymnastics, The Mirror made the packed Opera House revel in shocked gasps, whoops and a standing ovation. 

To witness the skill, training and rigour of the nine acrobats and the charismatic musical host and composer, Ekrem Eli Phoenix, is exhilarating and unpretentious. Never have I seen someone breakdance spin on someone else’s head, and this isn’t even the highlight. This is a fun show, mashing popular musical covers sung, recorded and projected by Phoenix to confident beats executed by sound designer Mik Lavage. The Mirror is not trying to lacquer profundity on what harkens back to the vaudeville of old. The people want to see a good show, and this is spectacle, baby. 

The concept of ‘the mirror’ is mainly a finely-tuned actualisation of weight and ability on equivalent ability and weight, with the troupe splitting and reforming for the different stunts, and the audience sighing in wonder and relief as performers hurled sky-high land safely in their tightly trained teams’ embraces. For anyone who thinks they don’t like ‘circus’, fear not. This performance has more adept agility and poise than most contemporary dance. 

There’s a gender neutrality as all cast members wear the same nondescript basics, presumably to evoke a mirroring, which works well, as it is hard to keep track of individuals as they break like dividing cells into new arrangements. Perhaps this brokers more conceptual heft than at first glance. 

Phoenix, clad only in briefs and a robe, has an exquisite voice. While gazing into his phone he lets us see his face, mouth and even throat, at intimate range on the big screen, which evokes Narcissus, who famously mythologically drowned, obsessed with his own reflection in the water. Striding around the stage and up and down the audience corridors, sometimes Phoenix turns the camera around to his witnessing admirers, but ultimately back on himself, while onstage the acrobats create even more high-stakes gambits. 

Read: Performance review: BURGERZ, Theatre Works

Lacan wrote about the ‘mirror stage’, when an infant first recognises itself as an individual, separate from the caregiver. To watch this contrast, between Phoenix taking the dominant spotlight of the performance, while the mirror-image acrobats swarm and regroup like incredibly gifted, committed ants, is quite worthwhile to contemplate. Read into it what you will.

It’s the ‘don’t miss it’, energetic, consummate delight of the season.

The Mirror
Gravity & Other Myths
Sydney Opera House

Director: Darcy Grant
Associate director: Jascha Boyce
Set and lighting designer: Matt Adey
Associate designer: Lachlan Binns
Composer: Ekrem Eli Phoenix
Sound designer: Mik La Vage
Costume designer: Renate Henschke

Performers: Jascha Boyce, Joren Dawson, Simon McClure, Lachlan Binns, Martin Schreiber, Dylan Phillips, Megan Giesbrecht, Lewis Rankin, Maya Tregonning
Musician: Ekrem Eli Phoenix

Tickets: from $59

The Mirror will be performed until 5 March 2023.

Anna Westbrook is an interdisciplinary queer feminist storyteller, critic, creative producer, poet, and freelance educator, currently working on her second novel and a collection of essays. She has a PhD in writing from the University of New South Wales and is the author of Dark Fires Shall Burn.