Note: This review is from the 2016 Fringe

Based on the novel by Rene Denfield, The Enchanted is an examination of criminality, child abuse and escaping prisons (both literal and metaphorical ones) through the power of imagination. Narrated by the vilest of all of the inmates, Arden, the story focuses on York, a man destined to die imminently and apparently resigned to his fate, while The Lady, an external investigator, seeks to pull him back from the brink of condemnation.

It’s a harrowing tale of the human psyche and how criminals come to be criminals, and the stark bleakness of the novel is recreated through a sparse set populated only by columns of bird cages and the performers. Moreover, impeccable choreography accompanies all of the dialogue throughout the piece, communicating both a sense of nervous tension and latent feelings of the characters that they cannot or will not vocalise.

It’s a bold move from writer Joanna Treves and director Connie Treves, who use the unique nature of the production to translate the magic and emotion of the novel onto the stage effectively. Though the constant twitching and gyrating of the actors threatens to distract from the dialogue at certain points, the cast all move gracefully and fluidly, transitioning seamlessly between scenes and imparting an extra layer of meaning to the piece.

The acting is commendable across the board, and although the attempts at American accents are often shaky, this doesn’t detract overly from the enjoyment of the piece. Max Sisterson as Arden shines in particular, with his gestures and diction perfectly capturing the essence of the condemned man looking for solace and escapism in a snatched glimpse of the sky. Meanwhile, the use of puppetry is an effective tool in recreating a nostalgia soaked in sadness, contributing to the overwhelming mood of the performance.

For an alternative way to spend an hour at the festival, this sombre examination of the criminal mind and the nature of Death Row will both demoralise and uplift simultaneously (if that’s possible). It’s an unsettling and invigorating show that’ll get under your skin and lay eggs there, nagging at the back of your mind long after you’ve left the theatre.