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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Madge | Electric Theatre, Guildford

PR Invite | Written by Emma | Photography by Claire Angel

Advertised as the ‘live resurrection’ of Margaret Cavendish, a woman born in 1623 who became notorious for being absolutely ‘mad,’ this show attempts to bring justice to this absurd woman in the most absurd of ways – fitting isn’t it? Cavendish was many things: a writer, playwright, scientist, science fiction author, philosopher, and early animal rights activist. More importantly, she was a mad woman.

This is not a Wikipedia page, or a biopic. It is not a play, and it is not a musical. Then what is it? Perhaps a live resurrection, as Margaret said herself. No. This would imply that there was some sort of narrative, or even a small character arc, of which there was none. Despite pristine vocals delivered by Anna Hale, they much too often descended into a spiral of unnecessary and, at times obnoxious, sounds. Going from the premise of the show, depicting an absurd and oftentimes ‘dislikable’ character, these sounds seemed perfectly in tune with the theme. However, the story itself was so difficult to decrypt that the delivery lacked its intended purpose.

Being the centre of attention in a one-woman show is daunting, and Hale diffuses the tensions with attempts at comedic interactions with the audience, which just felt ‘too much.’ In breaking the fourth wall, Hale throws into question the whole purpose of the story. This was further reinforced by her modern references, and use of slang. By the end, it was difficult to ascertain whether Hale’s character was a resurrection of 17th Century Margaret, or if she was trying to give the audience a modern interpretation of the person. Unfortunately, these creative choices seemed too vague to be understood, let alone appreciated.

When it comes to the creative crew, Maddie Maycock’s lighting work must be commended as it was oftentimes a crucial aspect in the understanding of the story, and it was superbly done. Further, Fintan Kealy’s music, delivered a modern twist on what an audience would expect 17th Century instrumentals to sound like. In the end, these musical interludes were one of the few aspects of the show which tied it back to the appropriate time period. The songs themselves ranged from sweet melodic ballads to completely disturbing songs about fingernail biting (and swallowing) called ‘nibble, nibble, nibble.’ Coupled with original experimental voice work, it formed what can only be described as a surreal work.

Overall, despite being performed by a very talented actress and a very intriguing premise, the show itself raised too many questions, which made it very difficult to understand what was happening and harder to appreciate. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Madge (a Pinchy Theatre production) ran for one night only at the Electric Theatre in Guildford.

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