Review: For now we see through a mirror, darkly, Greenside Nicholson Square, Edinburgh Fringe

For now we see through a mirror, darkly is certainly unique. Inspired by texts from Alchemy and Mysticism by Alexander Roob, its concept is fantastical (and verges on total absurdity). Wrapped in cloths bearing pagan symbols, three performers – The Rule of Three being historically, a religious belief adhered to by some Wiccans and occultists – move in conjunction with a cryptic voice-over. The piece is suffused with magical and spiritual science, this voice acting as a visual descriptor for elements that cannot be seen.

The three remain nameless, though they are referred to as ‘meat stack’, ‘jelly stack’ and ‘blood sack’. Here, words are stripped bare, extremities becoming “flesh branches” and ears, “listening holes.” Interestingly, the narration is twofold: an accessibility function for visually impaired audiences, as well as a tool to ground its concept for those who are sighted. The first of three phases (Dry, Cool and Moist) sees the latter aligned with the former, as each spectator is asked to close their eyes. This is the productions’ most powerful asset. 

Suddenly, abstract noises are made sinister – the shuffling of bodies across the floor, along with phrases of unintelligible muttering. Small sounds loom large, the exercise becoming unnerving in its manipulation of the senses. Later activities don’t seem to hold as much sway over its audience, though its experimental nature is to be commended. The potential of For now we see through a mirror, darkly would be maximised, should it level its playing field. It could take shape as a binaural sound experience, theatre in the in dark perhaps, or another event focused purely on its auditory aspects – strong and strange as they are.

Written by Louise Ahl, the images within the script are so profound that they deserve a stage of their own. In its current state, more performative features diminish the wonder caught inside her words. That said, Ahl’s design is arresting: a large cloth centrepiece detailed intricately with the skeleton of a sun.  For now we see through a mirror, darkly is a rare breed of theatre – whether or not its eccentricities equate to the extraordinary however, is something of a conundrum.

For now we see through a mirror, darkly played at Greenside Nicholson Square until 24 August. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.