Saturday, July 5, 2014

BrokenCrow, 'Enter Juliet': If Our Minds Be So

Abandoned psychiatric patients must mount their own Shakespeare-type play for survival in Ronan Fitzgibbon's dark thriller.

Everyman Palace, Cork
Jun 30-Jul 5

My review of Enter Juliet by Ronan Fitzgibbon coming up just as soon I jockey for a position in what is a doggy dog world  ...

Shakespeare means the world to some people - consider those fans who recite long passages faster than Tybalt can pull a knife. If a convincing delivery of Shakespeare guarantees your next meal, you're probably an actor off the breadline. In the twisted world of Ronan Fitzgibbon's play, it might also mean you're an abandoned patient in a psychiatric facility, performing for your life.

BrokenCrow's wicked production converts the curtained Everyman stage into a dungeon. Butcher hooks suspended in the air and rattlings of chains unnerve with the feeling of being in a lunatic asylum. Having found parchments and fragments of Shakespearean text, a frazzled director (Nicholas Kavanagh) urges on an impaired Juliet (Eadaoin O'Donoghue) to make her way through a monologue. Once completed, they and the rest of their company look toward a hatch in the ceiling, where food is sent routinely as a reward. When not a crumb arrives, the concern is that their illusion isn't real enough. On with the show.

The patchwork play-within-the-play that follows is a convincing imitation of Shakespeare (its lines contributed by Ger Fitzgibbon - former Drama head at UCC and the playwright's father) and is full of recognisable conventions - Lear's loss of sight, Midsummer's love potion, Much Ado's love letter. There is revelation in the actors' ranges as well, as their characters free themselves from their psychosis to play their parts. Caliban (Ciaran Bermingham) the sexual compulsive seems a gimmick until in a flash he becomes an Elizabethan flautist, royally composed with a voice like music, malleable as his namesake.

Gavin McEntee's staging never loses its urgency or danger, in part due to antagonists played by Mark D'Aughton and Sonya O'Donoghue, who unpredictably pounce on the rest of the players.

Fitzgibbon's smorgasbord of theatrical influences goes on, encompassing Beckett (the play-within-the-play suggested as a ritual to fill up time and stave off nothingness) and a nod to Cork native Enda Walsh (a schizophrenic transforms from a man named Runt into an equally destructive woman).  

A dark thriller with plenty of suspense, Enter Juliet doesn't end up really saying anything about Shakespeare or mental illness. The latter is more serious, for taking liberties in using these conditions as character devices, it runs risk of mystifying them and shrouding the real experiences of the people they affect.

The identifiable through line is an examination of group relationships, toted by Prospero (the charming and comic Tadhg Hickey) who narrates while believing to be surrounded by a documentary film crew. These observations of alpha behaviour eventually lead to a gory finale, a bloody usurpation of power. "What a piece of work is man" Hamlet might say. Without justifying his references to Shakespeare and mental illness, Fitzgibbon's statement is less formed.

What did everybody else think?

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