The Witch of Edmonton
RSC Swan Theatre
WITCHCRAFT was an obsession in Shakespeare’s day, and the hunting down of witches something of a sport. Even King James I was fascinated by the supernatural.
Four hundred years on it makes for engrossing stage viewing in Greg Doran’s adaptation of The Witch of Edmonton,
the final production in the Roaring Girls season featuring feisty females.
The play first performed in 1621 was the collaborative effort of William Rowley, Thomas Dekker, John Ford, and more than likely others as well, who picked up on a true story of suspected witchcraft in a Middlesex village.
Essentially an old woman is accused of being a witch so she decides she may as well become one, and when the devil pops up to help she has a fine time reaping her revenge, even if all does not end well.
Eileen Atkins returns to the RSC after a 17 year absence as the accused witch Mother Sawyer, moving wonderfully from old lady frustrated resignation at her plight, to flush of youth enthusiasm as she realises she has the chance to get back at her tormentors.
She is more than ably supported, and if there’s been a better devil at the RSC than Jay Simpson’s hound from hell, then it was a long time ago. Hats off to all concerned in costuming the crafty cur who stalks and barks his way round the stage carrying out his black deeds.
From the younger guns – Ian Bonar as Frank Thorney, Dafydd Llyr Thomas as Cuddy Banks and Shvorne Marks as Winnifride – to the older stagers – David Rintoul as Sir Arthur, Geoffrey Freshwater as Thorney and Ian Redford as Carter – this is a first rate cast.
The set is minimal in the extreme with the only prop being a bed brought on to the bark chip covered stage, against an unchanging reed backdrop, but this fine production needs no dressing up.
The Witch of Edmonton runs until November 29. Visit www.rsc.org for tickets and further details.