Review of ‘The Mistake’: “Somebody had to make it”

One of the most horrific episodes in recent history relives onstage through the words and eyes of those who stood before it. Guillermo Nazara reviews this play dealing with the massacre of the Hiroshima bombing, to share this thoughts on this in-depth analysis about the people that lived through the terror but also the ones who created it.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Or so we’d like to think. Reality often proves itself more difficult (and many times, uglier) than we desired. And however monstrous it may sound, the vilest of actions can be the only way to prevent something of even more atrocious proportions. Killing thousands of innocent people may not be, though, the best of examples… or is it? The Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks are no doubt one of the most controversial chapters regarding World War II and the USA’s participation. A heroic accomplishment to some, an act of coward advantage to others, the questionable morality surrounding the conflict poses an interesting opportunity for writers to deepen into the direst sides of the human psyche – but also a risk of sermonizing.

The Mistake is an intricate observation on the mischievous paths that lead to subsequent dismay. Written by Michael Mears (who, at the same time, stars in an countless number of roles), the show offers us a precise recounting on both the antecedents and aftermath related to the lamentable occurrence, going from the apparently harmless discovery of nuclear energy to the rebellious sense of vengeance streaming from the open wounds of the incident’s survivors and their descendants. Told through a continuous maelstrom of time and space jumps, the piece succeeds on every aspect of its structure, offering us a clear, comprehensible narrative combined with a complex, well intersected net of subplots – all of it resulting in fast, exhilarating pacing building up both interest and concern for what’s inevitably going to happen.

Relying on a simple though iconographic set design (credit to Mark Friend), the production manages (with admirable accomplishment) to create an atmosphere of staggering solidity, giving us a fair impression of being transported to each and every of its scenarios – and prompting our minds to fill those gaps with a more thorough painting, brilliantly suggested and enhanced by clever blocking and an effective use of sound and lighting (both a commendable effort that’s worth the mention of its authors, Claire Windsor and George Tarbuck, respectively). In addition, it’s two-person cast, formed by the already mentioned Mears and Emiko Ishii, constitute a much functional tandem exuding chemistry and mutual understanding in all of the renditions, but also incredible versatility – this last trait better defended by Mears’s discreet but legitimate performances of his many different characters.

Art should stir us inside to some degree. Sometimes it’s our feelings, sometimes our convictions – some others, both. The Mistake carries out a compelling tale while also inviting us to question the ethics of a polarized reality, triumphantly avoiding the easy mistake of sounding (or being) preachy. As with every major historical event, many try to feed from its natural allure to create something of relevance – with failure being more often than victory. Constructed with originality and developed craftsmanship and put together as a result of an obviously intensive research, The Mistake manages by all means to stand up by itself – proving to us that the only error, indeed, would be not to have made it (or come watch it).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Mistake plays at London’s Arcola Theatre until 4 February. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Nazara

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