If you live in this part of the world then you have, almost certainly, heard of Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General.
Matthew Hopkins lived in Manningtree in the first half of the 1600s and he was solely responsible for the increase of witch trials during that period. It is believed that from 1644 to 1646 he was responsible for the executions of over 300 alleged witches.
Hopkins, along with his colleague John Sterne travelled throughout Essex and Suffolk, visiting villages and towns offering to rid the locals their of witches and witchcraft, in return for payment of course…
Praying on the venerable, folk were quick to accuse those that were a burden to their town, so poor widows, disabled and the disliked were all targeted. And, that also meant the whole family was also accused of witchcraft too.
Red Rose Chain’s latest production, The World Turned Upside Down, tells the story of the real people of the time and the effect that being accused of witchcraft had, not only those arrested for the ‘crime’, but also the families and friends of those who’s loved ones where tarred with the name ‘WITCH’.
Beautifully performed by Red Rose’s Chainers Youth Theatre the action is brought to life. A large strong cast, that never once lost that broad Suffolk accent, tell the stories of real people from the time. This is a dark piece of theatre and the fear of both believing that you are sharing your town with a witch, and the fear of those accused of witchcraft comes across well.
The clever lighting and haunting voices coming from behind the scenes only add to the drama for this ‘edge of the seat’ performance.
Under the direction of the talented Joanna Carrick, these young performers have produced a production with maturity far beyond there years. The result, a stunning piece of theatre that conjures the ghosts of our past and leaves you wanting to find out more about the people and places in our history.
• The World Turned Upside Down will be performed at The Avenue Theatre on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th February. To book tickets visit www.redrosechain.com
Review: Wendy Cook, Ipswich24 Magazine