The Enchanted is based on the novel by Rene Denfeld and adapted for the stage by Joanna Treves and Connie Treves. Combining narrative, movement and puppetry, this multi-layered drama addresses issues of the American prison system and the treatment of men on death row.
When you walk on death row, you look for the light, for the scrap of sky…
The drama of death row is once again in focus in The Enchanted, the current production at The Bunker. The play is based on the novel by Rene Denfeld and adapted for the stage by Joanna Treves and Connie Treves. Connie Treves also directed the production. The Enchanted premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016.
The stage is set in abstract form. The floor is made of huge white tiles that are subsequently used as a sketchpad by the cast. It is effective in defining the space: a simple square sets the cell of the condemned and, creatively, a simple drawing of a house in the corner places the performer at home. Designer Jacob Lucy has placed an enigmatic centre piece suspended over all which is visually interesting, but the connection to the drama is non-specific.
The play seeks to explain how two murderers became capable of the crime. The Lady, as described by Arden, is the female legal investigator who uncovers the details of childhood abuse that greatly contributed to their subsequent actions. This opens up the classic discussion of nature over nurture. Jade Ogugua plays The Lady with a brilliant focus.
Arden, one of the men on death row, serves as a narrator throughout. Corey Montague-Sholay was on stage for the entire ninety minutes of the performance and it was his character that was killed at the end of the play. Montague-Sholay can be commended for his strong performance. The opening section is particularly notable for the beauty of Montaue-Sholay’s delivery of the word pictures used to create the enchanted world: the world outside the window of the prison.
Equally strong and chilling in performance is Hunter Bishop as the killer Troy. The audience is told that his plight on death row was widely ignored by authorities and the media until he withdrew from the process of appeal stating that he preferred to die. Bishop’s character was as much defined by his physicality as the words he spoke.
Treves has chosen to mix theatrical devices in this piece. Movement is important, with waves of the cast flowing to the front of the space and ebbing into disparate positions to indicate changes of scene. There were also segments of formalized movement by the whole cast accompanying the narration. The movement director is Emily Orme.
Puppetry was also used, with the characters of Arden and York being highlighted in this way. With all of this augmentation, the connections and delineation of the characters gets lost at times.
The rest of the cast, Georgina Morton, Jack Staddon and Liam Harkins, all play multiple roles and despite skillful performances by these performers there is some blurring of the characters.
Overall the complexity of the multiple layers of storytelling overwhelms the narrative and divides the action into too many disparate parts.