Arthur Miller’s account of the Salem witch trials in The Crucible isn’t exactly known for its historical accuracy – so much so that he tried to pre-empt any criticism of that nature by writing a lengthy introduction to the play (referenced in The Yard’s production of the play earlier this year). But enough’s enough. In a world where the truth is increasingly optional, Out of the Forest Theatre give us the facts – and a female perspective on the story – in their new show Call Me Fury. Currently running at The Hope Theatre (following a stint at the 2019 VAULT Festival), it was written by Sasha Wilson and directed by Hannah Hauer-King, and further devised by the company & director.
Following in the footsteps of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia, Call Me Fury moves away from the white male protagonist and the patriarchal views that shaped the widely-remembered narrative, instead giving the women a voice – and reminding us that it’s actually children that we’re dealing with. Uprooted from a comfortable existence, subjected to horrors, and feeling completely alone, all they initially wanted was for someone to listen to their fears instead of simply ignoring them; they couldn’t have imagined the chain of events that would follow, as men clutched at their stories and used religion as another way to enforce their power over women – pitting them against each other in their desperation.
The show is at once informative and entertaining, dipping in and out of the main story with speeches, songs, and stories of other so-called ‘witches’ throughout history. It colours the Salem tragedy, putting it into context (the witch cake is a real eye-opener) and making it easier for us to comprehend as it can be difficult to get your head around certain aspects. The musical side of things mostly plays up the emotional side and adds to the mood of the scene, all performed in an acoustic, folksy style – The Civil Wars is a particularly good example, as it takes the accused Sarah Good’s torment and amplifies it. Music does also provide some more light-hearted moments, with Witchy Woman raising a smile and “winter is coming” prompting a short solo (not to mention the backing music as the witch cake recipe is delivered).
Sasha Wilson, Mairi Hawthorn, Gracie Lai and Olivia Kennett make up the company, seamlessly switching between roles with the slight change of an accent or reassigning a cape as a skirt. They’re clearly very committed to the play and its message, and are exceptionally engaging at all times; they create stunning harmonies and send up their characters where necessary – it never fails to amuse me to see men portrayed how women see them (after the opposite being done so badly for so long), and Wilson particularly excels as Reverend Parris & the local doctor. The 80 minutes fly by in the cast’s capable hands, stoking a fire that has been building for some time…
My verdict? Informative and entertaining, Call Me Fury sets the record straight about witches – and keeps the fire of women’s stories burning bright.
Call Me Fury runs at The Hope Theatre until 5 October 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office.