Dir. Richard Baron, Tron Theatre, 30/10/18 – 03/11/18
All I knew about The Last Witch was that it was incredibly popular and well-received, reflected in the packed and buzzing auditorium before the show. Yet for some reason I had my doubts – would the play just be a cliché performance capitalising on the drama of the idea of witches? Did it really have to be two hours long? How can they possibly provide the thriller promised without the effects filmmakers have at their disposal? Within the first five minutes of the play my doubts had vanished, replaced by a deeply unsettling sense of foreboding mingled with an awe at the play unfolding before my eyes.
As a basis is the incredible script by renowned playwright Rona Munro, known for Bold Girls, James Plays and Iron, which provides lyric lines brimming with natural imagery for the witch (and by the end for her daughter). Such lines stand in stark contrast to the humorous and rough language of the villagers and the religious overtones of the parish priest. Together, they not only hooked me as a viewer, but forced me to question themes still contemporary today, including power struggles, the role of women, religion, bystandership, and mother-daughter relationships.
The insightful and thought-provoking plot and dialogue of the script were given their due by the convincing acting of all performers. Indeed, they even provided the haunting music that set the scene for the tragedy of witch hunts in Scotland. What was most impressive was the interaction of the characters, which provided subtlety to the plot and empathy for each individual, as nobody was depicted as purely victim or perpetrator. Such engagements were crucial as they created moments of tenderness, bittersweet bliss, and comedy that served to heighten the tension throughout the play and contrast with displays of power-struggle, anger, and revenge.
The Last Witch was a stunning performance from all of those involved. The minimal but effective scenery, lighting, and costumes provided the space for the enticing script to come to life through the impressive performance of all actors.