The Witches of West Fife
Play, Pie, Pint
Oran Mor (Glasgow)
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Set in the present day and the early 17th century, Jane Livingstone’s play features an all female cast, an appropriate reversal of what was the Elizabethan norm, as we are about to learn (in gruesome but necessary detail) the fate of women thought to be witches.
Three Fifers, Isobel, Janet and Mags are recruited to do a bit of double, double, toil and trouble round the caldron in a film of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Not professional actors, they’ve been hired for their faces and to add a bit of colloquial authenticity. The director shouts action and we are transported back in time to the Bard’s London house where Will sits with Lilyan a Scottish seamstress who not only makes costumes for the company’s theatrical players but can read – a skill that arouses suspicion in Sir Grigor, a misogynistic royal emissary, visiting the playwright with a supernatural commission from King James.
The actors, Kirsten McLean (Isobel /Will), Sally Reid (Janet/Lilyan) and Clare Waugh (Mags/Sir Grigor) are comfortable in their dual roles, contrasting the dark drama of the past with the joking, cowl wearing, amateur performers in the film. (In a third guise they appear at a witch-trial in bunnets and football scarves. Weird but it works!)
Livingstone packs her intriguing play with facts and ideas which argue, with convincing authority, that the historical demonization of women through accusations of witchcraft had more to do with political repression than any fear of sorcery. A production that’s both entertaining and edifying.
Reviewer : David G Moffat