Review by Carly Fisher
Stories of war seem especially relevant this year and Michael Mears’ new work The Mistake is no exception to that, despite documenting the build up to, and dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima 77 years ago.
Told through a cleverly woven script of mixed-mediums, the partly Verbatim, partly inspired text is taken on as only a 2 hander, despite featuring many more characters in the play. Mears has spent years crafting this script and it has clearly paid off - the work is fast paced and yet detailed, lyrical when it needs to be, complex at other times. It jumps place, time and characters seamlessly and is truly, all round, an exceptionally high quality piece of writing.
All of that could be overlooked though if not in the hands of two expert actors. Luckily Mears himself, alongside Emiko Ishii prove just that - experts at their craft. Ishii is haunting as she recalls the diary entries left by Nomura Shigeko that give us deeply personal insight into the Hiroshima atrocities. Equally, when Ishii portrays a modern reporter interrogating pilot General Paul Tibbets, she is powerful, emotional and delivers a stunningly authentic performance. She truly shines in this play.
Mears too is excellent and takes on a series of roles and accents that are each played with such sincerity and respect. Mears is a commanding presence on stage - as General Tibbets he is chilling in his lack of remorse and Mears’ portrayal of this as a Military trait is executed flawlessly. Mears also takes on Leo Szilard, the Jewish Hungarian scientist who first had the idea to split atoms to release exorbitant amounts of energy, an invention that led to the creation of the bomb. His storyline is heartbreaking as his discovery is turned against him but again, Mears offers an authenticity to the story that makes this must see theatre.
The use of props and set in this piece is exquisite. The make shift like set and hand held props transform consistently and allow us to navigate our way through this epic drama that spans decades and continents. The plane and chalk board were personal favourites of mine but you have to see the show to see why. The only complaint I have - when using paper props, though a small detail, it immediately takes the audience out of the drama of the piece when what you are using looks so horribly fake - and an empty diary with no writing, and blank pieces of paper, again with no writing, is a tragically amateur slip up in an otherwise brilliantly executed piece. It is such a small detail but I hope it is fixed quickly as I am sure that this show has an extensive life beyond fringe.
The soundscapes are impactful, particularly in the parts which have been specially recorded to include the children of the Japanese school in London - a truly powerful sound design. Lighting is used effectively with minimal specials but with each LX detail contributing to the pace and progression of the story. Costuming could perhaps be refined slightly - there are a few excess costume props that come in and out of the suitcases that don’t really need to be included.
Overall, this was an extremely powerful piece of theatre that I would highly recommend to audiences that like historical drama. Though well paced, it is very loaded in the amount of information that it covers and will not be for everyone. I can happily confirm though, it was very much for me! One of the strongest pieces I have seen here at the Fringe.