Writer: Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy)
Directors: Karolina Szemerda and Serina Griffin
Reviwer: Ciara Murphy
Presented by Enigma TheatreThe Madman and The Nunchallenges the boundaries of reality and sanity by defying conventional theatrical and societal authorities.
Sister Anna, played by Niamh Large, and talented, yet deranged, poet Alexander Walpburg, played by Shane Robinson, are resident in a mental institution. Walpburg who is imprisoned here because of his murderous past has come to realize that he will never be freed from this place. Sister Anna is imprisoned in a different way, constrained by her nun’s habit and the strict rules of her religious order, it doesn’t take much for her to cross the threshold and immerse herself in scandal to find her path to freedom. The obsessive Doctor’s X and Y reveal the most sinister side of institutional care. Sinister psychological expiriments, sexual gratification and murder are only some of the events contained within the walls of this hospital ward.
Large and Robinson seem a little intimidated by their rôles at first but quickly settle into a chemistry that works within the given frame. There are a few opening night technical glitches but the beauty of this absurd performance is that the audience aren’t quite sure if these mistakes are intentional or not. The sudden sexual tension and manic passion that is present between Walpburg and Sister Anne propels the audience into the absurdity and allows for an opportunity to focus on the theme of the production. The Freudian overtones create a bizarre comic strand that oddly enough, really blends well with the rest of the performance. Doctor Y’s obsession with resolving his patient’s complexes and his character provides the most straightforward plot line in the play.
The final scene is the highlight of the piece, combining modern and original elements of the play, the ensemble create a crescendo of energy, absurdity and creativity that leave the audience interested and amused.
It has been argued that writer, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, usually known as just Witkacy, is the true father of absurd theatre. Reflecting on the theatre of Ionesco and Beckett, the links between Witkacy and the movement are clear and the directorial duo Szesmerda and Griffin have honed in on elements of this absurd style. Although written in 1922 in an avant-garde style, the innovative focus is still appealing to Smock Alley’s contemporary audience.
The choices made by the directorial scene make this adaptation of The Madman and The Nun a success.
Photo by Robert Patynski. Runs until June 13th.