The Witchfinder’s Sister is currently at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until 30th October and will have you gripped and seated on the edge of your seat until the very end of the performance.
The year is 1645, and Alice Hopkins has returned to her home in Manningtree after the tragic death of her husband Joseph. Alice is frightened and waiting for a child. Here she finds her brother Matthew, significantly changed since she last saw or heard from him. The home is run by maid Mary, who would appear to have the confidence of her master to an alarming degree and the under maid Grace.
Alice is confused at the secrecy within the house and is only told that the master is away on business and that he has become an important person within the surrounding communities of Essex and Suffolk. When Matthew appears we find that he has been disfigured as a child, but as to how remains unresolved. Alice visits her mother-in-law Bridget, who had been a servant to her mother to try and discover the story only to find that Matthew is involving himself with others who are seeking out Witches and bringing them to trial.
The relationship between Alice and Matthew becomes more and more tense and Alice finds that Matthew has a book in his room listing the names of supposed witches in the area. Taking Grace into her confidence, and fearful of Mary, Alice seeks out the book. The discovery is shocking! Matthew tells Alice she must not see Bridget as she is bad company. However does Bridget hold the key to Matthew’s disfigurement and darker secrets?
We move on to when Matthew has returned from a further trip and announces the arrest of a group of women from Manningtree who will be taken to trial at The Assizes in Chelmsford, one of whom is the mother of Rebecca, a known lady of ill repute. Alice and Rebecca between them work out that Matthew is in fact the Witchfinder, responsible for the execution of hundreds of women alleged to have been witches.
Alice confronts Matthew after the sentencing to death of Rebecca’s mother and the others, whereby she is herself imprisoned.
This is a dark and forbidding play with parallels to modern day society and will certainly provoke debate.This adaptation for the stage by Vickie Donoghue of the book by Beth Underdown has a superb cast; George Kemp, playing Matthew, has all the dark qualities of the period, Lilly Knight as Alice captures the danger, difficulty and frailty of being a woman in those days. Jamie-Rose Monk as Mary the maid who rules the house has an air of confidence with underlying fear and Grace, beautifully characterized by Miracle Chance is everybody’s favourite.
Sadly we do not see as much of Rebecca as could be hoped for and she is wonderfully played by Anne Odeke.
The stage setting was brilliant and the interactive movement created the dark atmosphere of the time, with the great use of sound and lighting created an evening to be scared of. Directed by Jonnie Riordan this play will appeal to local people with its historical content and the drama of the times.