Glamour girl and Celebrity Love Islander Abi Titmuss makes her theatrical debut taking on the work of one of the world’s most celebrated playwrights – the late, great Arthur Miller – in Two Way Mirror, his semi-autobiographical collection of two very different plays about his relationship with Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. And, I confess disappointingly, the enterprise is not as much of a car crash as many anticipated.
Director Mike Miller (no relation) has done a reasonable job of guiding Titmuss through what must be familiar territory as she poses in a negligee in faux-dramatic, freeze-frame moments during Act One (titled Some Kind of Love Story), a pastiche of a cop drama almost in the Top Gun vein in which Titmuss is a Monroe-type blonde bombshell who “holds the key to the case”. The comedy comes complete with cringe-worthy sound effects and cheesy music, which, although adding to the intentional naffness, does get slightly irritating.
And, although Titmuss throws herself into the role (and at her co-star, accomplished US actor Jay Benedict), there are times when it's extremely difficult to distinguish whether her acting is intentionally painfully stilted for send-up purposes, or whether she's just bad. However, on press night, Titmuss dealt professionally with forgetting a line, remaining so well in character while she asked Benedict for a prompt that it could almost have been written into the script.
The second act, Elegy for a Lady, is very different, and we’re back in much more familiar Miller territory in a moving story about a man whose much younger lover is dying of cancer, and he connects with the shop assistant in a store where he's trying to find a suitable gift for the lady. Titmuss manages to convey some empathy and is more restrained in this situation. However, there's a feeling of simply going through the motions with no truth behind them. Suddenly sitting down and looking hurt in an overly dramatic way while her co-star tells a heart-felt tale of sorrow just doesn’t rung true - although, to be fair, she tries.
Titmuss is no match for Benedict, who manages to retain an air of realism throughout - particularly in the second act when he touchingly plays the grieving and confused lover. He even carries off the stereotypical cartoon-esque Bronx cop of the first act with aplomb and prevents proceedings from falling into mere farce.
Titmuss exhibits a glimpse of potential and, if acting is what she now really wants to do, some more training would stand her in good stead for a career.
- Caroline Ansdell