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Review: Chainers create entertaining and thoughtful play about Suffolk witch trials

PUBLISHED: 12:25 24 February 2020

The reign of terror conducted by Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, is explored in The World Turned Upside Down, a new play staged by The Chainers, youth theatre.  Photo: Bill Jackson

The reign of terror conducted by Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, is explored in The World Turned Upside Down, a new play staged by The Chainers, youth theatre. Photo: Bill Jackson

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Review: The World Turned Upside Down, by Joanna Carrick, Red Rose Chain: Chainers Youth Theatre, until February 29

The reign of terror conducted by Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, is explored in The World Turned Upside Down, a new play staged by The Chainers, youth theatre.  Photo: Bill JacksonThe reign of terror conducted by Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, is explored in The World Turned Upside Down, a new play staged by The Chainers, youth theatre. Photo: Bill Jackson

In The World Turned Upside Down, The Chainers, the youth theatre section of Red Rose Chain, have created a powerful journey that takes us back to an horrific episode from Suffolk's past.

The Witch Trials of the 17th Century, led with murderous zeal by Matthew Hopkins is brought back to life here by Jo Carrick, the company and with Historical Consultant Mandy Rawlins. Through the lives of the ordinary people of Ipswich we see how women were persecuted, scapegoated and murdered. And it is still a clear lesson to illustrate what happens when power is in the wrong hands.

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It's 1644 and Ipswich is a place described by Witch Finder General, Matthew Hopkins as full of "ignorant peasants and fishwives" that is "sorely in need of guidance". Perfectly cast, Tom Hindson has a huge presence and is quite mesmerising as he struts arrogantly about the space that is empty and puritanically colourless and sparse, filling it with Hopkins' certainty and menace.

The company is outstanding and work seamlessly as an ensemble, each performer committed at every moment of the piece. We are invested in them all and there is a depth behind every line, that comes clearly from the process of research and development during rehearsals.

Individual stories are highlighted and Ella Bedford as Mary Lakeland, a grandmother, creates a character of humour and dignity. As Rebecca West, a 14 year old child manipulated into confessing, Rei Mordue is heart breakingly traumatised by her experiences as she is crushed into saying anything.

Jo Carrick creates a fantastic entertaining and thoughtful show with moments of light and humour to highlight the absurdity of "looking for someone to blame for their troubles." However as history reminds us again and again, society is terrifyingly fragile when it is living is fear.

This is a wonderful production and is highly recommended.

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