Monday, 26 June 2017

REVIEW: The Enchanted at The Bunker

The Bunker on Southwark Street is one of those places that feels like a porthole to the Edinburgh Festival. A recently converted underground car park, transformed into a 110 seat theatre space with a snug bar, a thrust stage and definitely excellent results. The staff were warm and friendly and with cordoned off Borough Market a stone’s throw from the vicinity this felt welcome. In fact, going to see a show that sells itself as a meditation on death row and a contemplation on evil: “are monsters born or do we create them” felt eerily significant in the aftermath of London’s latest attack. 

‘The Enchanted’ is a novel by Rene Denfield, an American author who also works in the US prison system which puts her as well placed to discuss these issues of evil, clemency, punishment and redemption. What follows from Pharmacy Theatre’s adaptation is an intriguing hour and a half of choreography, puppetry and movement. We are introduced to the narrator who is on death row played by Brit School Corey Montague-Sholay. He is a high point of the show with a vulnerability and story telling capacity that shines. The movement of the show, directed by Connie Traves was smooth and has a Greek chorus like feel to it, sweeping us through the story of a human rights lawyer trying to save a prisoner from death row execution. 

The different vignettes examine formation of characters who are ‘wrong doers’ and provide us with fertile ground to decide for ourselves on the nature versus nurture debate. The stories are fleshed out with the backdrop of puppets, who definitely serve a decorative purpose but beyond that I wasn’t sure what else they did. The actors/puppeteers were dedicated and gave their all to the performances, however I found the effect of many different stories slightly demanding without really yielding anything. I would have found a single focus on Corey Montague Traves more fruitful and easier to follow. 

There was also much drawing on the floor, which was initially interesting but didn’t seem to say anything significant. I feel like there was a huge amount of potential to examine the prison system and the moral chicken and egg of the people who find themselves on death row, however this production was more concerned with aesthetics to actually offer anything memorable. Initially compelling and with an attractive veneer, this show was only a strong starter for me. 

Review by Anna Williams

Rating: ★★★
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