THEATER REVIEW – Hags combines magic tricks, illusions and audience participation

MAGIC tricks, illusions and audience participation – what more could you ask for from a stage production?

Fortunately, Devon’s Scratchworks Theater Company combines the two in their latest Hags production.

At the Pound Theater in Corsham, this magical extravaganza is their version of Britain’s last witch trial, which took place at Bideford in 1682.

Three local women, Mercy Trembles, Susannah Edwards and Temperance Lloyd, were tried for witchcraft, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.

The small cast of Sian Keen (Mary Trembles), Laura Dobie (Susannah Edwards) and Alice Higginson-Clarke (Temperance Lloyd), accompanied by musician Andrew Armfield, make the most of the drama.

However, it is interspersed with magic tricks, using ropes, cards and canvas bags, live music and songs, and physical comedy, to tell what really happened in the small town. from North Devon 340 years ago.

In the process, the three sorceresses explore the witch-hunting mania that swept the country in the 16th and 17th centuries and sent hundreds of innocent women to the gallows.

Using illusion, stunts, and the occasional disappearing bunny, Hags sets the record straight for the three women who were falsely accused.

I thoroughly enjoyed the craziness and spectacle, and the magic tricks, music, and physical comedy certainly kept the audience entertained.

Their dramatic conclusion was that the witch hunt is still going on today, which I suspect is true in this day and age where the use of social media can often lead to hate crimes that drive victims to despair and dead.

Hags is directed by Katie Villa, with music by Andrew Armfield, magical consultation by Peter Clifford, set and costume design by Cory Shipp, and lighting design by Nathan Benjamin.x

Scratchworks are an all-female theater ensemble from Exeter. Using various theatrical styles, the company creates original stories with their unique blend of live music, dynamic movement and theatrical trickery.

Hags: A Magical Extravaganza has been developed with support from Beaford’s Made in Devon Fund, the Barbican Theater in Plymouth and Arts Council England.

Since its inception in 2013, Scratchworks has enjoyed sold-out shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, London’s New Diorama Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse & VAULT Festival, garnering a loyal following across the South West.

In October 2022 Hags continued their UK tour at The Pound in Corsham and Malmesbury Town Hall before returning to the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth where the show premiered in 2020.

The Scratchworks Theater Company will be back with Wild, Wild Woods from December 19-24.

Brian L. Hartfield