Summerworks-- Sharp Edges of Theatre-- Enough Rope


Enough Rope

Created and performed by: Michael Bradley, Tosha Doiron, Nicole St. Martin, and Zoe Sweet

Stage manager: Kristiin Freeland

Tent design: Yulia Shtern

Inspired by the writings of Franz Kafka and Ilse Aichinger

(Lower Ossington Studio Theatre)




Expressionism can be traced back to Europe and Scandinavia in the late 1800s and early 1900s—in dance, music, painting, and theatre, the latter two especially in Germany. This approach is highly stylized, with extremes in costume and makeup, speech that is unnatural, and narrative lines that often follow allegorical rather than logical or chronological stories. Add Expressionism to the movement to offend, involve, attack, or otherwise actually bring the audience into the performance (Peter Handke, The Wooster Group, and John Osborne come to mind), and we arrive somewhere close to the cloistered and intense atmosphere created by “Enough Rope.”

The show is sold out, and the audience is purposely kept small. Rather than be allowed to wander up, we are led, unusually, as a group, into the Lower Ossington Theatre. Our leader ignores the empty seats of the theatre ranging up beside us, and takes us instead to a flap door in a large installation that has been constructed on the stage, made of plain cloth—maybe burlap, maybe heavy cotton. This construction, designed by Yulia Shtern, has the feel of a circus tent, but a close and small one. It is mysterious. And, in resonance with the highly experiential nature of Expressionist theatre, it smells, very strongly of aromatic hay.

Once inside the tent, the avalanche of sensation is continuous. Warmly lit with golden incandescent light, we are seated on chairs set in a circle, so that half the audience faces the other half; further, intermingled with us are three of the four performers, heavily made up and dressed in archetypal outfits. From them, sounds are emitted, from shrieks to singing to various commentary. And in the middle of the space, on the floor, is a woman dressed in overalls, struggling to free herself—she is trussed with ropes.

The smell of hay stays strong in the enclosed space. On the one hand, it almost stings the eyes and nose; I was surprised that no one suffered a severe reaction and had to leave during the performance I saw. On the other hand, it forces attention and heightens consciousness.



The piece unfolds in a kind of surreality, as one after another, The Bound Man, The Writer, The Hunger Artist and Josephine the Singer offer up strange turns—one dressed as the top-hatted carnival master, one as the beautiful songstress-starlet-harlequin, one as a starving performer, and one tied in rope slowly freeing herself—in a questioning of the meaning of performance. Texts, drawn from Franz Kafka and the work of multiple-award-winning Austrian author Ilse Aichinger (best known for her experimental short story “Spiegelgeschichte” (1949), the fictional biography of a woman, told backwards) are interlaced with more immediate action—struggles, singing, the playing of a saw with a bow, and occasionally dance, sometimes leaping from their seats among the audience, sometimes rolling on the floor.



Michael Bradley, Tosha Doiron, Nicole St. Martin and Zoe Sweet perform with energy, clarity, and bold presence. This is not an easy piece, drawing intellectual and ontological questions right into the small space. At times mesmerizing and intense (during Josephine the Singer’s self-interrogation about the selfishness of seeking attention, for example) and at times losing its way in sensation, Enough Rope dares us to consider our plight, as audience (confined by the tent of our conventionality, by what we expect from theatre) and as performers (tightly tied by the ropes of wanting fame, or to please, or even to follow without thinking). Kristiin Freeland (stage manager) and the performers have provided a rare experience: courage, forthrightness, and the odd beauty of being surrounded by untrammelled, gorgeous strong practice and imagination. Why make theatre, Enough Rope asks, while plunging us into theatre that is unflinching, aesthetic, and real. At the end, the performers leave. We sit there. Will they come back? Can we applaud? Should we? This is daring and provocative work, and I look forward to more of this company’s performances.