It’s not easy to produce serious, funny and historically accurate theatre. This really shows in Sasha Wilson’s Call Me Fury, which, taking Arthur Miller’s The Crucible as its starting point, tries to tell the true story of the women behind the Salem witch trials.
Abigail Williams (Mairi Hawthorn), Reverend Samuel Parris (Sasha Wilson – also writer and narrator), and accused witches slave Tituba (Olivia Kennett) and beggar woman Sarah Good (Gracie Lai) all feature in this musical retelling, which weaves in stories of historical witches from across the globe.
The narrative is often confusing and many more, sometimes unknown, characters make the piece feel more like a selection of sketches than a fully cohesive story. Prior knowledge of The Crucible is advantageous, but the scenes outside that narrative are the strongest parts of the show. The stories of a Scottish ‘witch’ told through Gaelic folk song and a Chinese ‘witch’ using scarfs – reminiscent of shadow puppetry – are particularly strong.
There are some uncomfortable shifts in tone as the story leaps from serious to funny. Some moments feel straight from Horrible Histories, but there are also some uncomfortably slapstick, panto-style contemporary musical additions that it would be better without.
Simple set and lighting work effectively, but the almost constant costume changes distract the eye from strong performances.
This is an enjoyable, promising new work with a multi-talented, all-singing, all-playing cast that with some heavy editing could sit in the ever-growing historical-feminist canon.