theSpace on Niddry Street
5th-27th Aug (Not 14th, 21st)
The Enchanted is an ambitious piece of theatre adapted from Rene Denfield’s novel about a death row investigator who looks into the case of York, an inmate who has chosen to die, but where the revelations discovered might upturn his death sentence. Adapting novels into coherent theatrical pieces is difficult when there is no fixed time limit; it is even more difficult with the one hour constriction of fringe performances.
Pharmacy production group approach this challenge by blending monologue, aspects of physical theatre and puppetry in way that creatively echoes the misty magic of the novel. The actors use their bodies and sounds to sensually capture prose from the novel. In the book we read that prison is a place where “even the walls sigh with sadness”, in the play we experience it. Staging the production in the round is also a great choice as every audience member is so physically close to the claustrophobic action.
The production weaves the (very interesting) conventional narrative monologues and the sensory experience of physical theatre together with pacy switches that avoid either element becoming tedious. The actors are versatile giving powerful performances during their monologues, and strong rhythmic adeptness when using their bodies to physically embody the spirit of death row, it’s inmates and histories.
The slight use of puppetry for childhood flashback scenes offers tender reflection of one of the production’s publicity lines – “Are monsters born or are they created?” and again, the sparing use made it’s presence even more haunting when it was. A minor irk is that with a relatively large cast, all on stage for the whole performance, is that more focused lighting mid have intensified these moments by omitting other distractions.
As the production progresses, a second protagonist in the form of a fallen priest is introduced and seems to add little but distraction to an already strong ensemble piece. Using physical theatre to portray his sexual downfall seems crude in comparison to the exquisite use earlier in the play.
This multi-layered work features overall strong performances – especially from the actors playing the unnamed lead investigator and York – and succeeds in transforming challenging material into a tight and provocative theatrical experience.