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Medicine 4**** - One4Review

| On 15, Aug 2021

A play written and directed by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and presented by Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival at the Traverse Theatre as part of the International Festival. Medicine is inspired by what Walsh describes as ‘Ireland’s complex and unsettled relationship with those deemed to be mentally ill’ and it’s ‘hunger for institutionalisation’. The scene is an anonymous, but clearly institutional room strewn with the remnants of a party from the previous evening, into which enters a pyjama-clad John Kane, tidying up as he wanders around in a state of apparent confusion. We soon learn that he is undergoing some kind of psychological treatment and is under observation by two women called Mary, one dressed as a giant lobster and the other as an old man. They encourage John to recount his past by effectively playing the part of himself in a dramatisation of his own traumatic life. The dialogue is accompanied by a live drummer, the fourth member of the ensemble on stage.
Performances are excellent, particularly Domhnall Gleeson, who perfectly inhabits the space between acceptance and questioning of his situation with a combination of anger and sadness. Whether by institutional indifference or downright malice, Kane doesn’t seem to receive any diagnosis or treatment, but instead is judged by two actors employed by the institution to dramatise his life and bring him to the conclusion that he needs to stay. One of the Marys comes across as more ‘barking mad’ than he is, but the ending does offer some hope, as the other Mary at least sees the injustice of his situation.
Reviewed by Howard

Edinburgh International Theatre
Until 29th August
Various Times
Traverse Theatre

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