Photo by Paula Fash 

Sisterhood is the theme for this show, as well as the title. Writer and performer Jolie Booth imagines a scene in a prison cell where three women facing witchcraft trials share tales and wine together the night before their presumed dispatch.

The context is the collective madness of the East Anglian communities that allowed the ‘Witchfinder General’ Matthew Hopkins to gather and murder women who did not fit the expected norms of society at the time.

Kriya Arts have taken this show on tour with the help of the Arts Council to a range of local venues with associations to scenes of intolerance and witch persecution. I saw the play in the Maids Head hotel in Norwich, close to Fye Bridge where once a celebrated ducking stool was allegedly located.

The script is good, with a warming bond between three strangers developing as they face their last night alive. A flask of wine appears to help the bonding too. Jolie Booth is joined by Jules Craig and Coco Maertens. Each take a time out from the main narrative to tell a tale of modern dilemmas for women, under a harsh ultra-violet light.

The evening ends with an invitation to all present to join a ‘healing ceremony’ where participants join a large circle to contribute their personal views about people they know as inspirational or deserving celebration. Stones are involved.

Whilst the play is well crafted and performed there are some aspects of the production that make it difficult to fully appreciate. There is a constant whining tone in the background, for no apparent reason, possibly from the ‘sound bowl’ used in the later ceremony. This constant noise goes well beyond creating an atmosphere and just becomes an impediment to listening to the dialogue. Very occasionally the script includes some rather wide ranging gender stereotyping about men which does not support the key message of inclusivity and social progress through understanding. I am well aware that this is more often directed at women than men, but it can allow a part of the audience to dismiss the key theme of this work which is to heal society so that intolerance and violence become a part of history, not everyday life.

In a time where works like ‘The Handmaids Tale’ are receiving wide attention this is a timely piece, but it needs a director who can step back and take an objective view of how the play is received by audiences.

Sisterhood is on tour currently – more details from kriyaarts.co.uk

© Julian Swainson 2019

See our preview here: http://norwicheye.co.uk/whats-on/sisterhood-the-healing-tour-of-east-anglia/