Heaven Burns at Assembly Roxy - Downstairs takes us via a dark tale of personal obsession and delusion back in time to the dark days of witchcraft and witchprickers in Morayshire, 1662.
Heaven Burns tells the story of Christian Caddell, a woman who falsifies her identity and pretends to be John Dixon (Andrew Findlater), notorious witchpricker who has by the Grace of God been given the ability to recognise a witch by the upturned cross only he/she can see in their eyes. Aided first by Isobel Gowdie (Marion Geoffray), first as clerk then accomplice, the pair go on to commit terrible crimes in the name of God and purity.
Under normal circumstances, the lead role of Christian/Jack is played by Susanna Mulvihill, but due to illness, that role for today’s performance was played by writer, director and designer Jen McGregor. This did require Jen to be reading her part from script (we were advised of this change before the performance started), and it did give this performance more of a dress rehearsal feel to it at times than a full performance one.
This change, however, did nothing to diminish the performances of Marion Geoffray and Andrew Findlater, and Jen’s “last minute” performance was still believable. What kept everything together here though was the tightness of the script.
This work opens a window into what happens when some are given almost “divine power” over other people, and how easily one could be branded as a witch (for any reason really) and have no escape from the terrible trial by witchpricking to obtain a confession.
Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular have a long history of witchcraft trials, so it is more than appropriate that this dark tale is being performed at The Edinburgh Fringe.
If I get time, I do need to go back and review this work again when Susanna Mulvihill is back in the lead role to get a new impression of the work as an overall performance piece.
Review by Tom King
Assembly Roxy - Downstairs
Aug 2-13, 15-27
Country: United Kingdom - Scotland
Group: Jen McGregor