Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Connie Treves: The Enchanted

By | Published on Thursday 1 June 2017

I was really pleased when I found out that Pharmacy Theatre’s adaptation of Rene Denfeld’s novel ‘The Enchanted’ was headed Bunker-wards, because I knew all about it –  it won much critical acclaim at last year’s Edinburgh Festival –  but didn’t get a chance to see it.
The novel has important, emotive themes, dealing as it does with the stories of death-row inmates. To find out more about the show based on it, and about how it was adapted, I spoke to director Connie Treves.

CM: Can you start by telling us what the show is about? Whose story does it tell?
CT: ‘The Enchanted’ is a story about death-row in America but it is also a story about how we find hope in the most terrible circumstances. It seeks to uncover the reasons why people end up committing horrific crimes and affirms that even men who have been locked up by society for what they have done are able to reach for beauty and truth. The whole world of the play is seen through the eyes of Arden – a man who has committed the worst crimes on the row. Through his eyes we are able to gain a perspective on death row -often not presented to us in the mainstream media – a world which is so surreal for an audience, yet is entirely his reality.

CM: What themes does the play focus on?
CT: The play covers a range of themes. Quite amazingly it manages to address the stark reality of the lives it is addressing – cycles of abuse, economic decline, child neglect, the failures of the prison system and the complete hopeless tragedy of death row for both those on the row and the victims – however it balances this against strong themes of hope and the power of the imagination. Even in the most hopeless circumstances, Rene Denfeld affirms that everyone is able to find their own beauty to cling to.

CM: Rene Denfeld is the writer of the award-winning novel that’s the source material for the show. How close an adaptation is your production?
CT: The novel is probably the most holistic, honest and perceptive story about the death penalty you will ever read. Having worked as a death row investigator for years, Denfeld truly understands the complexity of the death penalty and her novel perfectly manages to capture the hopelessness of the whole world surrounding it.

It is not overtly polemical, yet the novel forces us to try and understand why men commit to acts they do. It urges us to consider social responsibility and the part society has to play in creating its criminals. It is a novel about what it means to be human and what humans need to survive and exist in society.

As an adaptation, especially as we are all a UK team and have not worked on death row, we thought it was so important to follow Denfeld’s novel as closely as we could. However, we have had to cut a lot. As always in an adaptation it is our presentation of Denfeld’s work.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the writer, Rene Denfield?
CT: Rene Denfeld is one of the most inspirational women! Read everything she has written and read all the articles she posts. She is so engaged in the world and the arts and is a rare and exciting voice who we should all listen to.

CM: How did you go about creating an adaptation of the book?
CT: It was a long process which is continuing even now! It started with first drafts, trying to narrow down which plot lines we were mainly going to follow. Then we started trying things in the rehearsal room with the actors and this threw up more problems which needed to be resolved. Largely it has been a process of continual reference to the book and continuous repetition – carving out the novel onstage as we rake over the space with the actors again and again.

CM: Why did you want to create a show about this? Did you have political motives?
CT: I felt like this was a story which needed to be heard, especially now. Denfeld’s novel proves to a UK audience what the results are if we fail to invest in our social care system. If we allow poverty levels to increase, letting children always be the ones that are neglected, we propagate cycles of suffering.

CM: Have you made changes to the show since its run at Ed Fringe?
CT: So many changes! I am excited to show them to a new audience.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your cast, and the rest of your creative team?
CT: The cast and the whole creative team are all absolutely fantastic! I have loved working with them and everyone brings something exciting to the floor when we are developing ideas.

CM: What’s next for the show?
CT: We shall have to see!

CM: What’s next for Pharmacy Theatre?
CT: We have many things up our sleeve – you shall have to wait and see and keep following our work.


The Enchanted is on at The Bunker from 6-17 Jun. For information and to book see the venue website here.