The Witch of Edmonton

August 11, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

★★☆☆☆   Tragically complex

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241): Mon 11 – Sat 15 Aug 2015

Based on a Jacobean play written by William Rowley, Thomas Dekker and John Ford in 1621, the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group’s production of The Witch of Edmonton is a curious and intense tragi-comedy that confuses as much as it entertains.

The story is supposedly based on real life events that led to the execution of Elizabeth Sawyer for Witchcraft in Edmonton on 19 April 1621. Director David Grimes has adapted and edited down the rarely performed play to fit in with the fringe schedule. At almost double the length of a typical fringe show, it remains unclear whether he’s bitten off more than he can chew.

Wendy Mathison and Kyle Matson in rehearsal. Photo The Grads

Wendy Mathison and Kyle Matson in rehearsal. Photo The Grads

The result is a confused piece of theatre. Three storylines from the original text remain, but they appear to be somewhat discrete and have no substantial reconciliation. The play begins with Frank Thorney (Steven Croall), a bigamist who cons two women into marriage, one it appears for love and the other for her inheritance.

As Frank’s story unfolds, he travels to his family home and Elizabeth’s (Wendy Mathison) tale begins. Shunned and beaten by her neighbours, she sells her soul to the devil to exact her revenge. The third storyline runs in tangent with the second, showing another man’s simplistic and naive befriending of a black dog – the form which the devil has taken.

The devil is meant to be the thread that veins the three narratives together, as he spurs young Frank on to commit a crime. However, this is somewhat tenuous and the production seems to lack coherence, with the characters lacking motivation and spirit. Perhaps too much ended up on the cutting room floor to thread the three storylines together in a meaningful way.

aspects to be celebrated.

Some of the direction seems jarring, resulting in a loss of balance between tragedy and comedy. Some moments feel like they belong in a pantomime and others curiously lacking energy. In parts, the acting is rather static, with the cast not yet fully settled into their roles.

That’s not to say that there aren’t aspects to be celebrated. Kyle Matson is a joy as the Dog/Devil, adding much needed energy and terror to his role. His interactions with the other characters, where he remained unseen by them, were perfect – with just enough creepiness and menace to unsettle.

Dug Campbell as Sir Arthur Clarington, Frank’s employer and Sara-Jane McGeachy as Frank’s first wife are also worthy of mention for their performances together in an early, charged scene.

Overall The Witch of Edmonton leaves a feeling that something has been misplaced along the way. This is a real shame as the concepts of community morality and blame are still relevant centuries later. There is a sense that the play could have been somewhat modernised within its revisions to make it more accessible and coherent in a modern day setting.

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes
The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241) 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE
Monday 11 – Saturday 15 August 2015
Daily: 6.30pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/witch-of-edmonton
Grads website: http://www.egtg.co.uk/

ENDS

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