Watch out, there are wild women on the loose: where there were crones, now there are witches…
Fans of A&E Comedy’s Enter the Dragons will be delighted to learn that the new show Witch Hunt also features dreadful false teeth, wacky wigs, ludicrous arm extensions (gnarly nails growing down to the ground, this time round), frantically fast costume changes, knicker-wettingly funny sketches, perky sing-a-long songs, and totally gratuitous nudity (‘no one wants to see the hanging gardens of Babylon’). In Witch Hunt, these two wild, wild women continue their quest to expose misogyny and sexism in the funniest and most irreverent ways imaginable with great aplomb, armed with an excellent script and solid clowning skills. No territory is too dangerous, no woods too dark for these brave women to venture in to – there’s even a paedophile joke (Wicked Wolf to Little Red Riding Hood: ‘I like my women as I like my whiskey: 12-years-old and lying locked in the cellar’.)
In some ways, Witch Hunt (which is directed by Cal McCrystal) is a continuation and extension of the format of the first show – a series of comic sketches tied together by a narrative theme that has an anarchically feminist slant, the two actor-clowns stepping in and out of narrator/character roles, playing out their clown personae of master (Emma Edwards) and servant (Abigail Dooley) – although those given roles are allowed to be challenged and usurped in the cleverly written scenes.
Where Enter the Dragons stayed firmly focused on the menopause, and what ‘the change of life’ really means – which I’m sure nobody thought could be the stuff of comedy until they saw that show, but my goodness it really worked – Witch Hunt takes a broader theme, merging together all sorts of takes on witches and witchiness, from the persecuted wise women of Salem, to wicked witches in fairy tales, to the wizard-and-witch territory of magic tricks.
And yes, it all fits together in thematic terms, and every single element works well in its own right, although it sometimes feels like there is some odd ricocheting from one idea to the next, with so much complicated stage action as props and costumes hurtle on and off. Although there are times in which we get both of our wonderful women onstage together – including the hilarious ‘refined poetry versus filthy limericks’ scene – there is less of this than I’d like, as each scurries out in turn to get into the next elaborate costume.
But my goodness, what magnificent costumes (designed by Holly Murray) and what fantastic solo skits, with a special mention for Emma Edward’s red-rubber clad robotic Red Riding Hood squirting water from her pneumatic breasts; and Abigail’s horribly horny and vulgar wolf with fabulous furry legs and behind.
Design wise: a giant pop-up book that forms the centrepiece of the stage is OK, but not as beautifully painted as it could be – although it serves well for the fairy tale aspects of the show, and provides a stage-within-the-stage for the puppetry sections, featuring some rather wonderful creations by Annie Brooks. The Cabinet of Swords that is the site for a magnificent finale is a fabulous thing of beauty.
The soundtrack is suitably spooky, the songs are saucy, and a special mention goes to Abigail for her musical saw playing!
There is, perhaps, a little work to do on the dramaturgy and structure of the piece – I remind myself, though, that I am seeing what is only the third ever performance of this new show, and already it is a rip-roaring success, receiving standing ovations.