Medicine – Edinburgh International Festival

Written & Directed by Enda Walsh

Produced by Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s your Medicine? In dissecting the social responses to mental health concerns, Enda Walsh’s new production launches the Theatre portion of the 2021 Edinburgh International Festival. And at first, it seems as though we’re disturbing a party – or at least left with the remnants. As a young man, John enters the hall and is distinguishable from his clean, pressed, and unmistakable Hospital jammies.

Quickly, the absurdist nature of Walsh’s script becomes wholly apparently due to the elephant, or should we say lobster, in the room. It’s unashamedly humorous in the sinfully macabre way of gallows humour, but we aren’t entirely sure why we find the ludicrousness of the production so amusing yet ‘wrong’. Or at least at first, we don’t.

Whether you watch theatre, create it, appreciate or yes, even critique it, there’s an unfolding and tearing meta-narrative of the constructive process of playwrighting at the neurological centre of Medicine. After all, performance is the cheapest form of therapy. The boundaries between cast, audience and stagehand are demolished, interruptions occur frequently and entwine themselves within the narrative until, by the final bow, the audience is perplexed into what was real and what was fiction – precisely the way it should be.

Leading a formidable cast, including a spectacular turn of percussion from free-playing drummer Sean Carpio bringing dynamic energy and flow to Teho Teardo score, Domhnall Gleeson effortlessly turns out a harrowingly moving yet uncomfortably humorous performance as John Kane. Yet, as crucial as Gleeson’s role is, and as enrapturing it is to watch his vulnerability, the real punch of performance comes from the predatory Mary, and well, the other Mary: Clare Barrett and Aoife Duffin.

Is the tattered and yet clinical aura of Jamie Vartan’s set dressing all within Kane’s mind, attempting to de-clutter and fix an ever-persistent issue? In the end, the decision to reject the tannoy interferences and find solace in another offers Walsh’s only steadfast comment throughout, that finding another to cling onto – anyone, is a vital mechanic in surviving the most testing of times.

Photo Credit – Jess Shurte

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