Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern
The Liverpool Everyman Theatre
Author: Rebecca Lenkiewicz
October 27 – October 31
Director: Ria Parry
Designer: James Button
Cast Includes: David Acton, Amanda Bellamy, Judith Coke, Tim Delap, Hannah Hutch, Andrew Macklin, Rachel Sanders, Cat Simmons
Running Time: 2 hrs 20 mins
With its melancholic and almost claustrophobic atmosphere, Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern which is currently running at The Liverpool Everyman is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Set in 1712 at the end of the reign of Queen Ann, the story is based on events that took place in Hertfordshire in which one woman was hanged and another harangued merely on the spurious evidence provided by gossips and the overtly pious. So if the play says anything between its beautifully crafted lines, it has to be “watch what you say for you never know what damage it might do”.
The stark set designed by James Button, with its gallows at the centre of the action, increases the foreboding ambience magnificently enough, but when the subtle use of lighting is brought in to play it is as though the audience are silent major players in proceedings in the way they become onlookers without a voice.
The cast to a man and woman – particularly Amanda Bellamy in the role of Jane and Cat Simmons as Kemi – are faultless and if there is one complaint about what is clearly a labour of love for playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz it is that the moments of light relief – such as the “lustful” insights into the mind of Francis Hutchison – could be met with a great deal more subtlety.
This said, however, Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern remains an intriguing play that is guaranteed to have audiences thinking once the lights go up at its completion.