The Shake-scene Players, in association with Amnesty International and the Exeter Arts Council, present their newest work Possession: Macbeth July 29, 30,& 31st at 6pm with a matinee on the 30th at 3pm. Tickets are £6 and can be purchased at the Phoenix Theatre Box Office or at the door. The play infuses Shakespeare’s Macbeth with historical accounts of the 1680s Bideford Witch Trials that took place in Exeter, Devon. Possession: Macbeth recounts the Bideford residents’ accusations of possession and witchcraft, the women’s imprisonment as well as their trial and execution. The narrative is intertwined with Shakespeare’s Macbeth so that the comparison and haunting connection can be made between Shakespeare’s witches and Exeter’s notorious three, the last to be executed for witchcraft in England. This performance will also investigate the demonization, oppression and killing of powerful, independent women that are ostracised by their communities through the use of historical, fictional, mythical and literary sources.
We will be previewing Possession: Macbeth in Exeter, UK in July 2005. The Players will present four public performances of the work in the actual authentic site in which these women we imprisoned, the nightclub Timepiece. These preview performances will allow the historic architecture to serve as a backdrop to the production.
In 1682, a trial took place that shook the county of Devon to its core, and proved to be one of the most notorious trials in Exeter's history as well a integral part of British history. The story is only known about through broken songs, folklore and forgotten court records now all but consigned to the annals. The trial centred around three little old ladies during a time of great famine and fear that threatened the lives of ordinary Devon communities. Accused of witchcraft the women were gaoled, tried and executed to satisfy the need of the superstitious plebs. What makes this trial unique are the strange accusations, accounts and the happenings during the Exeter azizes. Based on the trial of the last three women executed for witchcraft in England, the questions raised in Posssession: Macbeth are potent, sometimes disturbing, but always provoking subjective thought around the society of an unruly and liminal time.
The play uses masques as a metaphor for society's lack of seeing these women as real people and instead confining to them a stereotypical fear of ageism. Each masque represents the character of one of the Bideford 'witches' so that it fully represents the masque the women hide behind and more importantly, the masque that is attributed to these women by society as a means of concealing the truth of who they really are.