Based on Rene Denfield’s novel, Pharmacy Theatre bring their debut production to London following a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Adapted for the stage by Joanna Treves and Connie Treves, The Enchanted is a soul-searching piece of work that asks more questions than it gives definite answers, allowing the audience to come away with very different perspectives of what death and life mean.
At the heart of the story are two men who have been placed on death row for crimes that are unspeakable (and perhaps not necessarily relevant unfolding plot) one woman tries to save them from a horrible fate – determined to not let them die without a true fight.
The language is poetic and descriptive, gradually drawing the audience into the story and never letting go of its hold until the very end. Every word that the characters speak has been carefully thought out and vivid in the imagination. Combined by the movements of the cast, everything is fluid and time passes quickly. While this is effective for the most part, this approach is danger of becoming tedious when the show reaches its climax and the fate of both men are in the balance – it loses it power at this point.
But there is no denying that this is a production that has been designed to pack a punch and it does so over and over again – particularly when York’s story is unfolded and we learn about his background that helps to if not exonerate him from his actions but to help the audience realise that perhaps the death penalty isn’t the best way to deal with all cases of murder. Arden’s story is less clear to understand and doesn’t quite hit home in the same way.
Connie Treves has created a production that is both bleak in outlook, but powerful in its message to suggest that those on death row (particularly those who have been sentenced to that state for years) are not living or dead; left in limbo about what to expect – with only the hint of hope in their lives that an appeal or evidence will give them a different opportunity at life.
While all of the performances are fantastic, there is something almost clinical about the characters or at least the way in which the production handles them. From the buttoned up The Lady (Jade Ogugua) to the mentally unstable York (Hunter Bishop), it is difficult to get a grip on their emotions and motivations in scenes which feel slightly stilted. The key relationship in the show is between the Lady and York, one wants to die the other wants him to put up a fight for his life. It is an interesting relationship that is consistently weary but brilliantly and grippingly portrayed by Ogugua and Bishop.
It teaches all of us to value our freedom and our lives and on leaving the Bunker, it is much easier to appreciate the scrap of sky and the sound of birds (or traffic) knowing that you can take control of your life – unlike so many on death row where their life is put on hold – is the death penalty the best way for those who have committed the worst crimes to take responsibility for their actions or to cut off their chance for remorse?
Overall, a bleak but gripping production that has you thinking endlessly for hours after the final scene has played out.
The Enchanted continues to play at the Bunker until the 17th June. For more information visit: https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/the-enchanted/about