Review - Method in Madness (Entita Theatre)

Perhaps one of the most intriguing of Shakespeare's female characters, Ophelia is a challenging role for any actress who crosses her path, so when a bright eyed young American movie star travels to London to make her West End debut playing the iconic role to a war torn audience, surrounded by a company of less than welcoming actors, it's no surprise that while trying to find Ophelia within herself, MiM's unnamed heroine begins to realise Ophelia's spirit may be easier for her to latch on to than she had though.

Set during WWII, Entita's Method in Madness features a fascinating array of characters including a cocky young Hamlet, using a confident exterior to hide from his inner cowardice induced guilt, a panic stricken mother reaching out over the pacific ocean to her husband and daughters thousands of miles away from her home in the American South, finding her fear mollified in her handwritten letters, and even the spirit of Ophelia herself, young and playful but with a hint of mischief in her eyes, haunting the young American as she struggles to overcome her fears and dive into the role.

Having never heard of Entita before, I was curious as to how they would execute their claim that they make Shakespeare accessible to all audience members, and I must say I was very impressed. The audience is truly taken on a ride with central character, and through that they learn with her how challenging and ultimately all-consuming taking on the role of Ophelia can be.

The use of physical theatre during the piece was particularly engaging. From the very beginning actors slide, stretch and swing over, under and around each other, giving the effect of a bustling street. Much like the play's heroine, the audience doesn't know weather they are coming or going. It's a jarring and yet very effective opening scene. Throughout the piece, the company use physical theatre in a number of unique and interesting ways. One notable scene included the central character surrounded by transparent 'mirrors', which were being spun by the ensemble. As the pace of the spin picked up, the actress became more and more erratic and hopeless and as an audience member I felt myself empathising with the young woman and her struggle. During another scene, the young actor playing Hamlet, usually oily and cocky, breaks downs in fit of anguish and iniquity after finding a white feather in his dressing room; the symbol of a coward. It was only when this scene ended that I found I was holding my breath in a mixture of fear and anticipation. Every move that the actor made during his breakdown was executed as if it was the only thing that could be done in the moment. It was as if words could not capture the emotions of the character, and the deepest internal thoughts and feelings could only expressed through the body. It seemed perfectly natural within the highly stylized piece, and was interesting too, as it played on a concept that even those audience members who were not familiar with physical theatre could understand. It reminded me of those moments when you are so angry or sad or stressed that you can't speak, you can only flail your arms around and slam doors and break things, and for this reason I think that that scene was most one of the most powerful in the show.

As far as the actors involved are concerned, I was hugely impressed with the focus each actor held, and the control that they showed during the demanding physical scenes. I was completely taken in by each and every character, and it was for this reason I believe the piece affected me so deeply.

In short, every actor and/or drama student should see this show. It tells the story of a young woman's struggle to find a character within herself, a struggle which every actor inevitably goes through. However, it's breathtaking physical theatre scenes, strong story and unpredictable ending make it a hugely entertaining show for anyone. I can't wait to see which Shakespeare play is given the Entita treatment next!

Verdict - 3 1/2 Stars

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