Method in Madness

New writing and Shakespeare, dance and physical theatre, all accompanied by the evocative music of Laura Marling; Method in Madness is a truly mesmerising show. Although the piece’s narrative takes place in London in 1941, concerning a young Hollywood actress struggling to play the role of Ophelia, it is so much more than a piece of contemporary writing, incorporating Shakespeare’s text, dance and music in this innovative look at one of his most beloved heroines. As the actress struggles to bring the role of Ophelia to life she turns to method acting, having been encouraged by a fellow actor to free Ophelia from her “prison in print”, but in turn it is the actress who becomes imprisoned in Ophelia’s role. Her method acting – or is it madness? - is eerily echoed not only in her changed performance in the 1941 narrative but in the incredibly choreographed dance sequences, with the simple three moving mirrors that comprise the set, as well as the ensemble, showing her grip on reality slipping, her mind disintegrating and spiralling out of control.

Entita Theatre’s production is an extraordinary and terrifying exploration of the effects of acting, violence and madness, fusing together intelligent new writing with Shakespeare’s text, music, masks, letters and movement.

Although the narrative concerns the Hollywood actress herself, the company works as an ensemble, not only playing their roles as director, actor or the actress’ mother but also portraying the victims of the Blitz, spirits haunting the actress as she tries to learn her lines, and ghosts from the pasts of other characters; the victim of bombing in 1915, a soldier killed in action in the trenches. The use of the set was especially effective, and affecting, here, with these figures from memory at times reaching through to those in the present, at other times remaining trapped behind the glass. Most vitally to the narrative arc, it was not long before the figure of Ophelia herself appeared behind the actress’ mirror, copying her movements before running away from her behind the moving mirrors in a beautiful and frightening sequence.

Although the piece as a whole, with its stunning combination of movement, music and lighting bringing the mental states of the characters to the fore, naturally had Ophelia and her actress as its primary focus, I found the most heart-breaking sequence to be the dance of the conscientious objector. Surrounded by the mirrors and with a white feather in his hand, he grapples with himself, who he wishes to be and who he is, echoing the tortured mind of the actress he spurns, both in character as Hamlet and out of character as he blames her for the sleight of the white feather, ending his dance with Hamlet’s line “Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all”, seguing into the rehearsal scene but connecting the two scenes, as well as his character and Hamlet, in an extraordinary and haunting manner. Indeed, all of the characters of the show’s new writing echo the Shakespearean roles they portray to devastating, distressing effect, in the bombing of London and in Ophelia’s tragic end, the moving mirrors echoing the ebb and flow of the water as she drowns, the actress copying her every movement to the last – or is Ophelia copying her?

Entita Theatre’s production is an extraordinary and terrifying exploration of the effects of acting, violence and madness, fusing together intelligent new writing with Shakespeare’s text, music, masks, letters and movement. During one of the rehearsal scenes the actress asks “What exactly did I do?”. To her, and to the company, I would say - you did something terrifying, something beautiful, something exceptional. To potential audience members, I say you would have to be mad yourself to miss it.

Reviews by Catriona Scott

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Struggling to connect with Shakespeare’s Ophelia, a young actress desperately turns to method acting. Soon the boundaries between theatre and her own reality become blurred. Amongst the bombs and sirens of blitz-struck London, her stunning portrayal becomes the performance of her life. Method in Madness fuses Shakespearean text and new writing with physical theatre and elements of dance, sound-tracked by the haunting music of singer/songwriter Laura Marling. Method in Madness is Entita's most adventurous show to date. ‘Exceptional choreography and powerhouse acting ... an enthralling example of experimental Fringe theatre at its best’ **** (BroadwayBaby.com, 2014).