Show: The Burning
Venue: Pleasance Courtyard, Upstairs
Star Rating: ****
Reviewer: Jenni Snell
Witch, Witch, Witch! We are all aware of the stereotyped image that comes to mind when we hear that word. Pointy hat, crooked nose, warts galore whilst casting spells on the protagonist of the tale. But where do those stereotypes come from when the only written records are by men? Let Incognito Theatre take you on a time travelling journey from the first witch trial in the 16th century to the last in the Victorian era. Interwoven with flash-forwards to a modern-day example, The Burning successfully highlights the lost voices and identities of women in the history of witch trials and the impact of capitalism on the women who dared to live on the fringes of society.
Despite a bold and complex narrative that transcends through the centuries, the four talented and skilful actresses successfully entertain and educate the audience with a fine-tuned precision. With seamless costume changes, differing accents and the use of positioning on stage, the cast are able to accurately depict the plethora of different characters throughout the timeline of the play. There are evidently strong bonds between the four women which enables them to naturally bounce off each other, making the complexities of the show work with absolutely no falters. Their physical movement has a depth that requires constant attention from the audience but is executed meticulously and in complete synchronisation with each other.
The stage set was immaculate, keeping in line with both the theme and the requirement to be relevant across the different time spans. Combined with some of the best lighting I have seen, it invoked an eerie and powerful atmosphere throughout.
What really sold it for me was the brave & bold move to add harrowing song into the narrative, sending shivers down your spine at some of the most poignant moments. Phoebe Parker’s ethereal singing voice made for pleasantly uncomfortable listening, successfully creating the powerfully unjust mood and reflecting the emotive themes back to the audience. Furthermore, the use of pop-culture elements such as the extract from Monty Python and Fleetwood Mac’s “dreams” layer the narrative demonstrating the continuity of themes into modern culture.
The Burning is a radiant piece of theatre that’s historical tales and messages are still far too real in the capitalist world we find ourselves in today. This is not a play you can switch off to, it is moving and thought provoking, requiring intense focus and attention so as not to miss any detail. Yet this is a play everyone should see – no one will escape the reflective thoughts invoked in that final question put to the audience.
The Burning – tickets available here
Pleasance Courtyard, Upstairs
3:15pm (1 hour)