THE WITCHES’ PROMISE: Stephanie Dale
Birmingham Rep at Weoley Castle, Birmingham
7, 14, 15 July (Sold Out)
Review: Alexander Ray, 14 07 12
Special event; atmospheric setting.
Set in the landscaped remains of Birmingham’s Weoley Castle, and based on a real event from the 14th Century, Stephanie Dale’s community play for Birmingham Rep and Weoley residents turns out to be amazingly apposite. THE WITCHES’ PROMISE is based on a famine in the area from 1315 – 1327 caused by excessive rain. Let’s hope Dale’s play remains apposite and fails to be prescient.
Dale incorporates the main historical elements (including a portrait of lawless baron, John de Somery) yet weaves a tale that, in her own words, is a ‘gigantic fairy story of a play.’ There is, indeed a ‘royal’ wedding interrupted by prophesying witches – though they are wode-decorated pagan women. There’s a tough spine of politics, too . . . ‘No one owns the land’ is a frequent refrain and notions of egalitarianism, justice and oppression are never far from the surface. A group of wanderers (could I say ‘travellers’) is rejected by the very people we are supporting, for instance.
With singing, dancing, beautiful puppets from pigs to steeds, the production weaves its way, promenade fashion, around the atmospheric castle ruins, linked by history of place to real events.
The Fool (Andrew Whitehead) drives the action along, with a sturdy, warm performance from Kieran Knowles as Adam, the peasant hero. These are accompanied by around some 40 or more community actors and West Heath Community Choir in fine and delightful voice.
It’s special; and the rain, amazingly, held off.
Director: Peter Cann
Designer: Andrew Purvin
Composer: Tim Laycock
Musical Director / Musician: Mary Keith
Assistant Director: Naomi Wood
Producer: Alison Burnley