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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

Burn Witch Burn

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Burn Witch Burn

Adapted by Tasnim Hossain and Claudia Osborne

Directed By Claudia Osborne

Presented by FERVOUR. And Red Line Production at the Old Fitz Theatre

First up, there is nothing nicer than walking into a pub on a winter evening to be greeted by an open fire, smiles and no pokie machines. I’ve been to a few productions downstairs at the Old Fitz Theatre and what always strikes me is its congenial atmosphere.

Burn Witch Burnt’, the performance of the night? It was confusing, left many in the audience feeling bewildered and certainly strayed from the movie and book from which the stage play was adapted.

In summation, ‘Burn Witch Burn’ has its roots in the book ‘Conjure Wife’ by Fritz Leiber (1943), and the film ‘Night of the Eagle’ (aka ‘Burn Witch Burn’) (1962); where wives of a particular academic circle practice witchcraft to promote their husband's careers.

The narrative? We first meet ‘Norman’ (Alex Packard), a psychology professor lecturing in belief systems and superstition. Essentially ‘twaddle’ is his assessment, though he presents his appraisal cloaked in academic terms and smug smiles.

Unbeknownst to Norman, his wife Tansy is a witch who has used her craft to promote his career. Unfortunately, she discovers that this last posting has put her in an academic circle of neighbourly wives who are also witches, but of a malevolent kind. One in particular has a husband in competition with Norman for a promotion.

The stage performance on Friday night reached a point – early – when they turned the piece into an abstract expressionist rendering. Writhing bodies tunnelling under white sheets, rams heads with luminous eyes, the perfunctory naked woman dancing in the shadows … It felt a bit like a sixties 'happening' or similar. I would have preferred something more expressionistically contemporary, or a production that stuck more to a decipherable storyline.

To note is that I rather like witches.

They were our early midwives and wise women who knew their way around the medicinal properties of herbs. They made lotions and potions and understood the properties of nature and natural cycles in a very experiential way.

And the wicked ones! Ohhhhhhh! So much scarier than wizards, warlocks, ghosts or ogres. Even Voldemort had a mother who he was afraid of when he crossed the line from evil to truly naughty I am sure.

For your entertainment. The trailer of the 1962 film ‘Burn Witch Burn

And a little food for thought. Were witches’ brooms created so women could escape domestic drudgery?

I wonder :)

‘til 30 July

Old Fitz Theatre

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