EH16: Pyre


Nevermore Theatre
theSpaceTriplex
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I do wonder if the title of this play may have confused some potential fringegoers, although it makes sense if you think about it, EH16 being a postal code for an area of Edinburgh and the pyre part alluding to the fact that the story revolves around a real case of an accused witch being burned at the stake, as well as society's habit of condemning and othering women who act in ways that don't fit with the normal conventions.

Nevermore Theatre brings to the Fringe a short and taut contrasting narrative of three real-life women: Agnes Sampson, Jessie King and Violet Foster. Each suffered and died at the hands of a society that failed them. Sampson was a wise woman and healer who was burned as a witch in the 1600s, King was hanged for the murders of problematic illegitimate babies of rich families and Foster, who drowned in her bath after trying to auto-abort the unwanted child of her abusive partner, in the modern day.

The play, through means of interpretive dance and movement, tells the story of the three women in an interlocking series of scenes as the three actors, each representing one of them, tell the fragments of their story, daubing first their mouths with lipstick then their bodies in a grim representation of their mode of death. It's an occasionally harrowing piece, bleak and stirring, and certainly thought provoking.

The downside of the piece is that the production itself is a little on the tatty side, with some stiff audio cuts and light transitions, as well as the tossing of various bits of costume through a gap in the stage curtain, through which a stagehand's socked feet could be seen which distracted a little through part of the performance.

But this is a piece that certainly with a little technical work could become something very powerful, and didn't fail to entertain even in it's current form.

Graeme Strachan