Performed at The Place Theatre on 13 March 2019
Starring: Emily Panes, Tom Blyth and Christopher Birks
Dawn State Theatre Company has come to Bedford’s, The Place Theatre with their tour of The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster. The emphasis is on the true story of the plight of women, who were seen as witches during the 16thcentury.
Women who were: not married, poor, who had children out of wedlock and who were from lower working class backgrounds were often seen as witches. Emily Panes plays Jennett Device as the child of one of the witches. The two male actors go on to tell the audience what they believe about witches, through the characters they play. They have clear suspicions about Jennett’s grandmother and her role in all the tragedies and deaths in Pendle village.
The Pendle witches were made of three generations: Jennet Device (granddaughter), her mother and grandmother, who were vilified throughout the show. “Witches walk amongst us” was the key message the male characters were signifying. The irony of Jennett Device’s role is that she is retelling what she has been through in a forced, tense atmosphere.
Candles were lit to brighten up the “darkness” on the stage. The Pendle witches had a stick figure to represent curses in the practice of witchcraft. This symbolised a sense of status for these women. In particular in the 16thcentury they had no status because of their backgrounds and upbringing. Women in these times had to keep the injustices they faced, hidden from society. For example hymns and musical instruments such as the violin and banjo were utilised, to bring attention to the chapters of the story. This highlighted the themes of: manipulation, loyalty versus disloyalty, trickery and deception.
On the whole this performance was heart-breaking. The storyline of the Pendle witch’s cycle of “depravities blood”, devil worship and being stabbed in the back, left me, as an audience member, with a sense of sadness and sorrow. This show definitely opens your eyes into a world where the discovery of witches, isn’t so wonderful.
By Isma Begum