Method in Madness, on for a short run at the Greenwich Theatre, is part period piece, part physical theatre and part Shakespearean drama that is a joy to watch.
The story follows an unnamed American actress (Alice Trow) who arrives in London during the Blitz to take up the role of Ophelia. She is greeted by grey skies, clipped English accents and a pervasive suspicion that she is not quite up to the role. As the work progresses she delves further and further into the part; but how far can she go without losing herself completely?
The show is physical theatre at its best. The cast’s expressive, but still tightly choreographed movements aren’t there for the sake of artistry (although they are beautiful to watch), but add an extra layer to the performance’s exposition. They simultaneously capture the actress’s struggle with her part and her eventual capitulation to it, but also tap into other character’s struggles (the actor who is portraying Hamlet as he wrestles with his conscientious objection, for instance). It even gives voice to wider concerns, such as the role of art and theatre in a war time situation, brought to life by the voiced air raid siren.
The cast work together so well that it is difficult to pick a stand out performance. Trow and Jennifer Geertsen, who plays the actress’s shadowy alter ego, have a mesmeric, swirling symmetry and make excellent use of the play’s three glass panes that are an integral part of the staging. The Director (Alexander Frisby), Polonius (Isambard Rawbone) and Hamlet (Mark Curley) also have a symbiotic relationship that is a pleasure to watch. The actors’ great strength is that they function individually, but can come together in a mass of bodies to act as kind of Greek chorus, or to collectively portray the revolutionary turmoil Ophelia is feeling.
The soundtrack, too, is worth a mention. Laura Marling tracks (mixed by Jamie Woods) add a timeless dimension to show. There are also come clever staging elements- a mask that disintegrates throughout the performance and panes of glass on wheels that act as mirrors. But it is the play’s conceptual as well as visual tightness, its thematic thrust and how it puts its point across so elegantly and succinctly and with such economy of words and movement, that makes it a winner.
Method in Madness played at the Greenwich Theatre until 18 October before continuing on its tour. For more information and tickets, see Entita Theatre website.