Theatre review: The Scarlet Letter and Other Betrayals
Edinburgh Fringe Scotsman review: The Scarlet Letter and Other Betrayals at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53), reviewed by David Pollock
This ensemble piece from young company Livewire Theatre may be set across the Atlantic in a Salem beset by fear and superstition, but there is something almost Shakespearean about its blend of humanity, tragedy and sharply drawn characterisation.
Not to mention the fact that, as the company point out, the English accent was still very much prevalent there at the time. Strangely, however, it’s not a grand affair about witch hunts and ducking stools at all, but in practice a much more human piece which focuses on the way women of the time lived at the whim of men and their own petty beliefs and prejudices.
At the heart of this is Hester Prynne, mother to a three-month-old bastard child named Pearl, who is sentenced to three score hours standing on the public pillory and a lifetime wearing the scarlet letter A (for adultery) on her clothes when she refuses to name the father of the baby.
It’s perhaps a slightly busy piece given the number of actors and stories going on, but the performances, costumes and sound design are all convincing and there are some powerful scenes, including slave Charity (Nyasha Mugavazi) verbally attacking her mistress when she is ordered to be “compliant” for a male guest. “As long as you swing by my side I will laugh as I dance,” she spits, as she stirringly counters command with defiant blackmail.
Originally published in The Scotsman