‘Medicine’ (Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts) | Review By Lewis C. Baird 

The Edinburgh Festival has always been a great birth place for prominent pieces of theatre and this year is no exception, Enda Walsh’s ‘Medicine’ is a new play which examines how, for decades, we have treated those we call ‘mentally ill’. This co-production between Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival already has sold out it’s Wed 4 – Sun 29 Aug run at the Traverse Theatre as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. 

Domhnall Gleeson has the audience intrigued from the moment he steps on stage as John Kane. Gleeson’s performance is one which ultimately controls how the tension varies throughout the narrative, and with that he seamlessly sets the tone for each anecdote. With the absurdity unfolding on stage, the audience look to his reaction as a cue on how to react. Domhnall’s shift from the rather anxious and comedic side of John to something much darker is truly the jewel in this production. When the veil is lifted, Gleeson’s rather sedate presence turns into an exceptionally disturbing affair, and the performance changes into something truly remarkable. Domhnall’s performance as John Kane is incredible as he shows great versatility in a very disturbing role. 

Clare Barrett & Aoife Duffin (Photo by Jess Shurte)

Clare Barrett as Mary 2, goes from being comedy gold to a deeply menacing presence. The transformation here is as commendable as Gleeson’s, in the sense as the narrative develops, it changes the audience’s perspective of Barrett’s Mary 2 from a clown of sorts into a threatening and frightening character. Barrett’s portrayal here is exceptional. The audience are manipulated along with John Kane, thanks to Barrett’s innocence and openness in the first section of the production. 

Aoife Duffin as Mary 1, provides a burst of energy and comedic timing within the first section of this production. Aoife does not miss a single beat when it comes to the comedy she is provided. Not only that but in terms of comic relief she is definitely the main source of light in this rather dark production. Aoife’s transformation throughout this narrative mainly reflects the audience’s true perspective when it comes to Kane’s treatment. In the final moments of the play Aoife’s emotion is true and almost is a cue for the audience to truly let their sorrow for Kane be unleashed. This is a very engaging, funny and touching performance from Duffin. 

Drummer, Seán Carpio, features in some scenes, amplifying the intensity with a riveting soundtrack from composer Teho Teardo. 

Enda Walsh has penned and directed this production. The complex and absurdist narrative does well to explore the serious and devastating themes. Walsh’s quick paced and creative vision in terms of direction, delivers the intended disorientation between the comedic, emotional and dark nuances of the text. The symbolism between some of the exchanges and moments can be lost in translation, however with absurdity comes abstract moments intended to be translated through the audience’s imagination.  

Jamie Vartan’s set design is very affective and immersive, and fits onto the Traverse’s stage perfectly. With that, it is definitely the best set I have seen within a black box theatre. Helen Atkinson’s dynamic lighting design compliments the set perfectly and helps to immerse the audience in the different suggested settings. 

Overall, ‘Medicine’ is a very creative and at points unfiltered exploration of our dark history, or possibly even future, in our treatment of those suffering with poor mental health. Domhnall Gleeson’s portrayal of John Kane is the highlight of this riveting new play, debuting at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Tickets are sold out for this production. For more information please click the link below:

https://www.eif.co.uk/events/medicine

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