Pharmacy Theatre’s debut show, The Enchanted, transfers to London’s Bunker Theatre from The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Based on Rene Denfeld’s poetic novel, this is a revealing insight to the horror of death row told through physical theatre, puppetry and sound.
Two prisoners are confined in cramped airless conditions, awaiting their death. An investigator, known only as The Lady (Jade Ogugua), attempts to save them, and at the same time she is drawn to the fallen priest (Jack Staddon) who has his own cross to bear. We find ourselves torn as we start to feel empathy for these monsters, who have committed the most terrible crimes, but have been subjected to terrible forms of abuse both outside and inside the penal system.
Corey Montague-Sholay acts as main character and narrator, he gives a very impassioned performance, his body twisting and contorting in a highly physical performance. Movement from Emily Orme is beautifully constructed and the cast move in near perfect symmetry.
The set is bare white, and it doesn’t need much more, as Denfeld’s prose is so wonderfully descriptive and evocative. The prison conditions are so perfectly described you can feel the oppression in the room, Denfeld was herself a death row investigator and you can definitely feel that familiarity shine through. From start to finish the actors scribble on the floor and wall with blue chalk, which inevitably transfers itself to their clothes, skin and hair as they propel themselves in all directions. As the months pass, a barrier moves over the stage highlighting the erosion of time.
Some brief use of puppetry, in what can best be described as ‘flashback scenes’ are a nice device to character build and comes at just the right moment as the story becomes a little too figurative. The Enchanted is very much written in a metaphorical sense, making it less of a linear story, but it is well enough constructed to be followed with some ease.
Director, Connie Treves, has elicited the best from the space and translated the commanding verse into a powerful visual representation. The Enchanted grapples with a difficult situation but presents it in an enlightening and engaging fashion, which at times abstract, is more than capable of being thought provoking.