Lydia Higman, Julia Grogan and Rachel Lemon
Dirty Hare
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs

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Lydia Higman Credit: Alex Brenner
Hannah Jarrett-Scott, Julia Grogan, Norah Lopez Holden Credit: Alex Brenner
Norah Lopez Holden Credit: Alex Brenner

Dirty Hare mixes drama, music and a bit of audience participation to conjure up in modern speech an imagined version of some appalling true events that occurred in early seventeenth-century England.

In 1604, Brian Gunter, the richest man in his Oxfordshire village, is irritated enough at the sight of a football match to wade in, killing the two Gregory boys. It's a striking scene with Gunter (Hannah Jarrett-Scott) striding from the back of the audience.

Taken to court, he is found not guilty; after all, he is a man of property. That might have been the end of the matter had he not heard rumours that the boy's mother, Elizabeth, was criticising the murder.

This leads him to claim she has bewitched his feverish, nineteen-year-old daughter Anne. It’s enough to get Elizabeth and two other women taken to court for witchcraft. If they are found guilty, they will be hanged, and while they wait for a trial, Elizabeth is confined to a prison cell.

Lydia Higman opens the show with some thoughts on the historical background and acts as an occasional narrator and musical accompaniment. A cast of Julia Grogan, Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Norah Lopez Holden play over twenty parts, from the Gregory lads to King James I.

Although the central thread of the story grabs our attention and gives witness to the historical injustice women suffered in England, it wraps this in a messy playfulness of songs that don’t progress the plot or character, audience participation such as chucking balls which belong in a different show and other elements such as the film footage of a football crowd fighting and the odd dance that are just distracting.

It is an entertaining piece of theatre that had the audience laughing. However, it only skims the surface of some terrible events and never delivers much depth to the characters we encounter.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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