Aug 12 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆    Historic relevance

theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39): Sat 5 – Fri 25 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

Light the Match and New Celts’ Prick at theSpace on the Mile is a production of considerable impact.

In the 16th and 17th centuries Scotland was more paranoid about witchcraft, and more assiduous in finding and punishing its supposed perpetrators, than anywhere else in Northern Europe. Those found guilty – a fate almost impossible to escape – were garotted and their bodies burned. While some accused were men, the vast majority were female, and only women were subjected to the ‘witch-pricker’ – the iron pin that helps give the play its title.

Carys Turner, Abigail McDonald and Lisa Turner in Prick. Pic Iain Davie

The injustices and sufferings are still not acknowledged seriously enough hundreds of years on, and there is a righteous fury to their depictions in Laurie Flanigan Hegge’s play that hits home. The scapegoating, the ‘othering’, the irresponsible use of language to stigmatise – these all have great contemporary relevance. The six-strong cast have an intensity across a variety of roles that is well harnessed by director Meggie Greivell.

There is also an inventiveness to much of the staging. The use of one of Madeline Helling’s excellent puppets in the torture scenes reinforces that old theatrical device where another level of artifice paradoxically makes things more real and immediate.

fire and control

Lisa McIntyre, Abigail McDonald and Carys Turner play the named and nameless accused among other roles, and impress with fire and control – McIntyre’s depiction of Isobel Gowdie, one of the most notorious figures in Scottish witch trials, has a particular force. David Clarkson, Ewan Jardine and Lev Siegel also take on multiple roles with emotion and believability.

Charlotte Bowe and Erin McEwan’s costumes are well chosen, and the music of Heal and Harrow (Rachel Newton and Lauren McColl) is used effectively.

Abigail McDonald and Carys Turner – with puppet – in Prick. Pic: Iain Davie

However, some elements of the production dilute its impact. The language, with its familiar mix of faux-archaisms and modern usage, often sits oddly. The conceit of occasionally having characters be modern-day TV presenters is inconsistently applied, does not really work and contributes to the play seeming too long. The deployment of some of the puppets seems more like an afterthought rather than being properly integrated.

Parts of the play are apparently set in a ‘liminal space’, with the ghosts of those accused being summoned. This is not always coherent theatrically, and has the effect of diminishing the reality of what took place. Similarly, having Auld Nick himself on stage, however magnetically played by Siegel, results in giving the accusations a veneer of plausibility, rather than depicting them as pure superstition.

There is also that title which – while undeniably striking – does not really give potential audiences a sense of what the play is about.

The end result of all this is a confusion that diminishes the message of the production’s more striking moments – some of which are undoubtedly powerful indeed.

Running time: One hour and 15 minutes (no interval)
theSpace on the Mile, 80 High St, EH1 1TH (Venue 39)
Saturday 5 – Friday 25 August 2023 (odd dates only)
Odd dates only at 11.15 am
Tickets and details Book here.

Light the Match links

Company website:

Facebook: @Lightthematchproductions

Instagram: @light_thematch

Twitter: @light_thematch

A scene from Prick. Pic Iain Davie



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