Volcano Theatre, Swansea, Sat 19 May
Wrong Shoes Theatre Company, in association with Arts Council England, has done it again and created a moving, thought-provoking and passionate production, The Unbinding. Volcano Theatre in Swansea was, for all intents and purposes, transformed by four incredibly talented women from a utilitarian stage into the basement of a church on Saturday.
Awaiting trial, four women accused of being witches grapple with their pasts, presents and futures within a society that shuns and fears anything that’s different. Through flashback-style plot, we learn about each of their lives and the reasons why they stand accused. Though the play is based on accounts from the Wiltshire witch hunts, it is universal in that nothing else matters except what is happening there and then. The actresses are unwaveringly submerged in their characters and stories. Themes of sexism, mob-mentality, prejudice, hatred, scapegoating and hysteria ring as true today as they did centuries ago.
To its detriment, the show relied heavily on shock-factor to portray the horror of the plot, which was unnecessary considering the play’s strength of character. Flashing lights, loud screams and very long sex scenes (and I’m no prude) seemed to force a particular reaction from the audience. It’s not that I don’t think that shock and horror were appropriate responses, but I think that these reactions would have been achieved regardless.
The dialogue is rich and powerful, but the strongest impact of the play came from movement. Symbolic and stylised, the women communicate the pain and discomfort of their plights and emotions through their bodies. The word ‘raw’ springs to mind when reflecting on this production. It retained an admirable and ceaseless authenticity, sparing no detail for the sake of societal comfort. Honest, touching and timeless in its message, watching The Unbinding was certainly a worthwhile and enriching experience.
words MEGAN THOMAS