The best word for the experience that is The Last Witch is, all puns aside, ‘spellbinding’. The script is brilliantly written, featuring strong characters and an equally strong storyline. Every character has their own beliefs and motivations which become clearer as the play progresses, and make them feel very real. From funny to serious, from intimate to public moments, this play has it all, and all of the scenes come together wonderfully. Every scene fits into the overall story like pieces of a puzzle.
Well-written characters call for skilled actors to play their parts, and this is perhaps the best part of The Last Witch. Leading actress Deirdre Davis in the role of Janet Horne, adds another dimension to her character in all the subtle details of her acting. Her expressionate voice gives the audience insight into Janet’s mind and generates laughter and sympathy alike from the audience. Davis’ on-stage daughter Helen (Fiona Wood) develops from a meek, timid girl into a fierce person who is able to stand up and make a deal with the Devil without fear. This change is written and portrayed beautifully.
The Hornes’ neighbor Elspeth (Helen Logan) also caught my attention with her moving performance, particularly during at the end of the second act when she publicly ‘condemns’ Janet and her witchcraft. The other characters are brilliantly played as well; every actor is cast perfectly for their role. It was a treat to watch them all interact with each other, especially Janet and Captain Ross (David Rankine).
This show also benefits from excellent tech. The smoke that was used at times accented those scenes perfectly, and the ‘fire’ created using a lighting effect looks almost real. Having a projection of the moon that turns red during the scenes involving the Devil adds an eerie touch that takes them to the next level. The sound effects were also used brilliantly to create atmosphere.
The use of singing and sound effects made by the members of the cast was clever and unusual. It added to the overall feeling of the play in a positive way, as well as giving the audience a chance to further admire the costumes. These were also just right for giving the audience details about the time period and the individual characters without anyone having to say it out loud.
To return to the action of the play, the power dynamics we see on the stage are very interesting. The interplay between Captain Ross and Janet is electric; the audience could really feel the spark between them. Watching them fight for control of the situation had me on the edge of my seat. I particularly enjoyed how Janet always won her battles – perhaps that is where her true power lies, in the ability to capture and, as she says, ‘charm’ others. It is clear that the Captain is afraid of this power, which lets Janet keep a degree of control over him even when she is in chains. The actors bring this dynamic across with superb skill.
I know I will still be thinking about this play for weeks to come. It is truly a unique show.