Witchcraft and woe in The Death of Maria


Love triangles, it turns out, exist in 17th century baby-eating witch-hunting Germany just as passionately as in teen vampire sagas. Written and directed by 3rd year historian Camilla Rees, the play that proves this, The Death of Maria, revolves around the real figure Maria Hollin from Mindelburg. Accused of witchcraft by the appropriately evil-named Ursula (Poppy Clifford), the now spurned past lover of Maria’s man (Jordan Reed), Maria (Evie Ionannidi) is thrown into the salubrious surroundings of a medieval German prison.

At first, the interrogator, particularly well played by Andrew Dickinson, almost seems to descend into a Sacha-Baron-Cohen’s-camp-man-Bruno-meets-Nazi-officer stereotype, but manages to turn this around to evoke a sinister sense of fear that really gets you empathizing with the horrors of interrogation and injustice.

Around 50,000 people were killed in European witch-hunting. When Rees was writing this play she wanted to get beyond the statistics and show the tragedy and sheer cruelty of witch-hunting by swivelling the stage light onto one typically tragic story of a real woman’s life.
Maria has the dubious honour of being noted in history for being tortured 56 times, resisting confession for an obscenely long time and (if that’s not enough) ostracized by friends and family. The fact that it actually happened does add real potency to the play as a whole.

The play does not look to be just an interrogation, but rather tries to look at the human impact of “witchcraft” on her husband as well.  Due to the nature of previews, it’s always a little tricky to gauge the play as a polished finished product, but when the it’s properly staged and practised the lighting will hopefully add much to the atmosphere.

While this is not strictly a tragedy, if you’re wallowing in despair and need a cheer-up, this play may well have you on Google Maps searching for the nearest tall bridge before the end. However, if you want an engaging piece on one person’s struggle that might stay with you for more than a few minutes after the curtain has been lowered, then you might just want to check it out.

The Death of Maria is showing at the Burton Taylor Studio from 29th October-2nd November (3rd Week). Tickets are available here.

PHOTO/ Wikipedia Commons (The Witch of Endor)


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