Jane Wenham: The Witch Of Walkern
by Eastern Angles & Out Of Joint
Written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Directed by Ria Parry
27th October - 31st October 2015
Let's get the joke I made at the Everyman out the way before I write
I asked one of the ushers, in regard to the five female characters in
the play, "Which is witch?"
The story concerns the hysteria surrounding the witch-hunts of the early
18th century. Women were accused of being witches on often very flimsy
evidence, with the church in particular unsparing in its hatred of practitioners
The main forms of execution were the ducking stool, being burnt at the
stake or, as with the case with Eleanor Thorn, the mother of Ann Thorn
(Hannah Hutch), being hung.
Thorn is seen grieving in the opening scenes. She is no angel. She enjoys
the sexual company of men and has no shame about this.
All the five women in the eight member cast excel. Also notable is Widow
Higgins (Rachel Sanders), the owner of an alehouse, where soldiers passing
through always visit and frequently fight among themselves.
Also worthy of praise is folk healer Jane Wenham (Amanda Bellamy), who
acts as a confidant to Ann in her troubled times, but is then cast aside
by her after Jane attacks her in a fit of rage.
Jane is suspected of being a witch by the newly appointed ultra-religious
parson Samuel Crane (Tim Delap), who does not appear to have an ounce
of humanity or compassion in his body. He strongly believes that so-called
witchcraft is a grave sin against God.
On the other hand the Bishop of the parish of Walkern (located in Hertfordshire),
Francis Hutchinson (David Acton), is very sceptical that witches even
exist and is dismayed by the putting to death of Eleanor Thorn.
For some unknown reason many of the women accused of fomenting witchcraft
were elderly but often practised herbalism and were frequently midwives.
Away from the madness of humanity you could often hear the murmurings
of birdsong and other sounds of nature.
Playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz deserves a lot of praise for penning such
a powerful tale. After picking up an Oscar last year for co-writing the
screenplay to Ida (Best Foreign Language Film) she goes from strength