It’s World War Two, the Blitz has just begun, and for the second time in a century, Britain is at war. But in Method in Madness, this takes a backseat as intense preparation for Hamlet’s Ophelia sends a young actress spiralling into obsessive insanity.
What’s so stunning about Method in Madness is that it does not force information; instead it is drip fed in bite size digestible pieces – a ten second dance sequence, snippets of letters from the actress’ mother, a 5 minute rehearsal. All of these perfectly formed moments combine to create our short but tragic story.
The Actress’ (Katharine Hardman) descent into madness drives the piece, and Hardman’s emotional fragility is tangible. It is evident in tiny details, from the way in which she stares hopelessly into her dressing room mirror, to the way she repeats and repeats and repeats the same line over and over.
However, the best moments in Method in Madness come from seamless ensemble work. Entita does this beautifully. The company melt around each other and around the stage effortlessly –always an indication that it’s the exact opposite of effortless.
The beauty of Method in Madness’s physical theatre by no means detracts from the spoken scenes. In physical theatre, dialogue sections can often end up stunting the action and breaking our interest. Entita are in no danger of that. The dialogue scenes and the physical sequences are expertly intertwined; there is no definitive line separating the two, and this is what elevates this from being simply a play with physical theatre to being a truly stunning piece of art.
Method in Madness really does develop a nightmarish quality, as ensemble member Jenny Geersten becomes the physical embodiment of Ophelia. The Actress becomes Ophelia’s literal puppet and it works perfectly, particularly since Geersten and Hardman mirror each other to a tee.
Despite this, it would be nice to see some of the other female characters explored more deeply. The Mother (Jessie Knowles) is an example of this. Her crumbling relationship with her daughter is illustrated by the use of a broken mask and crumbled letters, which work well; however this could be pushed further, perhaps with the use of more physicality.
It is truly difficult to fault this production. Method in Madness is harrowingly beautiful, and a stunning display of visceral new physical theatre.
Method in Madness is on at Greenside @ Nicholson Square (Venue 209) until August 22nd. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.