Tracey Norman: "I graduated from the OU in 2015 with an Honours degree in History. I wanted to create a unique piece of theatre for Circle of Spears which also incorporated my love of history and came up with the idea of dramatizing actual witch trial transcripts. I approached the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic for help. They kindly provided me with copies of a variety of documents and once I had read through them, I realised that they would not translate well to the stage.
Instead, I started researching English witch trials and, by using details from the papers from the museum and from my research, I created three fictional characters - the accused, her accuser and the local magistrate who deals with them. Social history has always held a fascination for me, so I wanted to focus on what actually gave rise to accusations of witchcraft. The three characters each bring different aspects of social history into the story, whilst illustrating how such an accusation could have arisen.
In order to tell the story, I had to play fast and loose with the early Elizabethan legal system. What audiences see is the story unfolding in the setting of a sort of informal deposition in the magistrate's library, where the accuser is questioned and the accused (unusually!!) is given a voice and has the opportunity to offer rebuttal - which she does with great vigour.
One of the key things for me was that the play should stimulate discussion. I didn't want to just create a linear story that progressed neatly from A to B with a woman who was clearly guilty as charged. I wanted to create something that would get audiences thinking - not only about the guilt/innocence of the accused, but also the definition of 'guilt' as it would have been interpreted back in the Elizabethan era, when the play is (loosely) set. Therefore, I worked hard to ensure that the accused's words and actions could be interpreted variously as innocence, guilt or misunderstanding. I soon realised that, in order to portray this as an actress, I would need to ensure that I myself had no clear view of her guilt or innocence, otherwise that would colour my performance.
WITCH is the first piece of live theatre to be performed in the Museum library. Our summer season runs until the end of October 2016, after which we will be touring the show - more of this in due course.
WITCH is the first new, original play by Circle of Spears. Written by company member Tracey Norman, it saw its world premiere at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall in July 2016, the first piece of live theatre ever to be performed in the museum library.