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Watermill - Witch

September 18th to 22nd, then on tour.

This is from the NWN.

Caught in a web

'WITCH', at The Watermill Theatre, from September 18 to 22

Very rarely do you experience new theatre that has the power to capture you emotionally, challenge you intellectually, and totally absorb you in a complex web crossing centuries, time zones and a tortured journey through the spiritual world.

Ade Morris's new play 'Witch' does that and much more. This is a play that is full of intrigue, twists and psychological questions demanding answers. We explore the fundamental need for society to clearly define good and evil and are compelled to face the devil that may live inside us all. That "Gargoyle head that turns the world to stone" as horrifically witnessed by the terrorist atrocities in New York.

Libby Watson's splendid circular set created a true eerie atmosphere that was enhanced by Lawrence Doyle's emotive lighting, and the evocative music added a further dimension.

The complex plot, and you do need to concentrate, traces the story of Susan, played with an all-consuming raw passion and commitment by Clara Onyemere, as she wrestles with her soul and identity. We first meet her in medieval times, when she becomes pregnant by a married man with family, and both are tried and the on the gallows. She then faces many reincarnations that lead her in different guises from Elizabethan tunes through to the Second World War.

We also experience the mysteries of alchemy, the bagatelle that's life and the need to 'mix it up'. There was a most enjoyable piece of comedy as the cast contacted the 'other' world at a spiritual meeting in 1945.

John Sackville played a myriad of characters with total conviction and power and Toni Midlane steered and guided the audience through the scenes with alacrity. Director Ade Morris created a fourth 'actor' - a puppet - a child that was so believable that it had a life of its own and an ability to haunt us all. Gripping stuff.

This was very much an ensemble piece of theatre with a strong talented cast that totally engaged the audience. It now tours through West Berkshire. If it comes near you don't miss it - go!


And this is the Newbury Theatre view.

In a thread leading from the Middle Ages to the present, Susan and Richard die but reappear in frustrating glimpses.

Susan's dreams and fantasies bring out society's fear of evil, which has to be concentrated into something tangible, and conquerable; in this case, witches. But the need to point the finger is still there - since September 11th, we are seeing terrorists cast as the modern witches (and the witch hunts have begun).

Unlike Ade Morris's previous plays (the Watermill has toured with The Dreamer and Lone Flyer by Morris in the last year or so) which skip back and forwards in time, Witch is chronological, but difficult to understand. The significance of some of the scenes isn't clear, perhaps reflecting the confusion that Susan is trying to come to terms with and resolve.

There were strong, convincing performances from all three of the cast: Toni Midlane, Clara Onyemere and John Sackville, enhanced by the eerie set and the ethereal music, and a fourth character - a doll - was used to great effect; it had a mesmeric reality. 

I struggled with this play (and, judging from comments in the interval, I wasn't alone). I felt that Morris's excursion into the metaphysical was less successful than his previous plays which were anchored on the lives of real people. The images of death were pervasive, and always leading Susan to Richard. She says to him, "It is blood and madness every time ... I murder our love in every life". What did it all mean? I really don't know. But it was certainly gripping all the way through, and worth a visit if it's coming your way.