“You are bigger than the skin you’re in.”
French by birth, but very much a citizen of the world, Maud Madlyn has spent the past year or so travelling, and immersing herself in other cultures as far afield as the Colombian Amazon, Mexico and India. Utilising her background as a theatre practitioner, Madlyn has processed her experiences and what she’s learnt to create a very personal show, Carry It To The End.
Even when travelling, modern communications brings news of the world to Madlyn’s fingertips, giving her cause for concern. This year was meant to be the international ‘Year of the Woman’, but whatever traction the #MeToo movement may have had last year, progress in 2018 has been eroded by the systematic undermining of women’s rights, such as by Trump’s administration. And then there are of course many examples where individuals or groups have been singled out for abuse, with no repercussions for the perpetrators involved. So what’s a person to do?
Madlyn’s onstage persona seeks answers – to her own existential dilemmas and where mankind as a species ‘went wrong’. Upon meeting a shaman, Madlyn engages with thim regarding her ‘quest’. The shaman’s initial line of question is about her family and ‘place of origin’ – as if the answer to her ‘identity’ lies there. But as a cosmopolitan woman whose home is the world, labels such as ‘home’ don’t have the same cache or level of meaning as ‘the norm’. Their conversation progresses to two main areas: mankind’s estrangement from its communal identity and what Madlyn has to offer. She’s candid about the fact that what she ‘knows’ is theatre and admin, but how on earth can that be used to bring about meaningful, lasting change?
One might be forgiven for that a show the deals with philosophy and metaphysics doesn’t lend itself to the stage. Madlyn, however, is able to convey these ‘interior experiences’ with straightforward, but effective theatrical technques. Hanging around her from the ceiling are containers of various shapes with chalk powder. These are used at various junctures to create circles which represent her relationship to the ideas that the shamen puts forward. The use of different coloured lighting adds to the mood of scenes, while Madlyn’s posture and choreography subliminally convey her state of mind and ‘who’ is in fact speaking…
Now to address the ‘elephant in the room’. For some people reading this, the show may sound like a ‘New Age-y’ attempt to make sense of things which have no answers – well-meaning, but insubstantial. I had no expectations before seeing the show, but very pleasantly surprised by its distinctive voice and its unique approach to ‘the big questions’.
For people who are ‘put off’ by the ‘vision quest’ nature of the narrative, I would say that the symbolism used is a device to allude to human truths. Most people have heard of the author Matt Haig and his memoir Reasons To Stay Alive, which mixes prose and poetry to talk about depression and the subjective reality. In its own way, Carry It To The End does the same thing and upon leaving the show, one realises that it’s cut from the same cloth – using the personal and the poetic to talk about things that matter.
© Michael Davis 2018
Carry It To The End ran at the Cockpit Theatre as part of the Voila! Festival on 30th November.