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Posts Tagged ‘Lulu Raczka’

This is a new play set in England in the mid 17th Century, a turbulent period that included the English Civil War, leading up to the execution of King Charles I and the abolition of the monarchy, albeit only for a decade or so. This is the historical backdrop, but Lulu Raczka’s play is not a historical drama. It’s a fiction involving one noble family and witchcraft, oh, and the devil, of course. I was expecting something earnest, but its actually rather fun.

It takes place in the home of Lady Elizabeth and her louche brother. She’s on a mission to secure their line of succession, which means getting him married so that he can produce a male heir. She recruits young Agnes, who everyone is convinced is a witch. They engineer a union with Catherine, of somewhat lower status, but the Lord of the house doesn’t take to her and fails to consummate the marriage. He seems to have desires for just about everyone except her – servant girls and his sister amongst them. Lady Elizabeth and Agnes continue to plot, which involves the pregnancy of another servant with the Lord’s child and the promotion of Agnes to a full member of the household. As the English Civil War rages, the Lord finds himself a reluctant participant, drawn in to the royalist cause.

There’s a brilliant prologue by the devil linking the historical events to the present day and he reappears later to make sure we know who’s in charge. There’s witchcraft throughout, something very much in keeping with this specific period, yet its a very funny piece given an audacious production by Rupert Goold. Miriam Buerther’s design and Evie Gurney’s costumes are terrific, and there’s superb music from Adam Cork. This is the sort of production any young playwright can only dream of. In truth, I think the production outshines the play, which is entertaining but perhaps a little lacking in substance.

The performances are uniformly outstanding, with Lydia Leonard in total command of the stage as Lady Elizabeth, an unrecognisable Leo Bill as the Lord, absolutely brilliant, and Alison Oliver shining as Agnes. There’s a fine supporting cast, including a terrific cameo from Nathan Armarkwei-Laryea as the devil.

If you don’t take it too seriously, its a really entertaining evening.

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