Vinegar Tom Production Team

Coming into the back-lit Corpus playroom, the stage bare apart from the white and pink drapes covered in twinning embroidered moons and a zine of leaves entangled over the top, made you think of make-shift tents, fairies and flower headdresses. Along with the beautiful music composed by Felix Elliot and sung by Emilia Grace, the scene was set. The flowing fabric, soothing voice and the two-person opening scene made it romantically atmospheric. However it was wonderfully deceiving.

The play followed the lives of the townspeople, mainly women, living in the countryside town of 17th-century England, albeit uncharacteristically. Alice slept with mysterious men, her mother cursed absent-mindedly at her neighbours, Susan thought of aborting her baby and Miss Betty would rather be locked and tied up in her room than marry a man. This female-centric play was an insightful interpretation of a woman’s role in society. It was the toss-up between marriage, as presented by the tumultuous and deceitful relationship of Margery and Jack, or freedom… but with a cost. Vinegar Tom explores the ambitions of women in a society which can’t handle their free-spirits. Their ambitions to live independently from their mother, their child or their husband; and all against male physical violence, cursed spells by the “devil” and accusations of witch-craft which historically ended in hanging.

“Is witchcraft actually just a way to survive as an independent woman?”

However brutal, it is the beauty of this play that makes you question whether witchcraft is a crime after all. We see scenes of the “cunning woman” and her potions to free Susan from her baby, Alice’s playing with the “devil” to free her from her domestic life, and the manipulation of voodoo dolls to bring harm to male abusers. Is witchcraft actually just a way to survive as an independent woman?

Overall, the play was crafted tremendously by director Arianna Munoz with the acting across the board of an incredibly high standard. Outstanding performances come from Margery’s (Mia Condron Asquith) hectic and believable scene of her bewitchment, to the harrowing scene of Miss Betty (Thea Melton) being restrained and audibly treated by bloodletting, and the jump-scare scream of Susan (Lydia Makrides) in the courtroom. The male characters were acted with similar quality but given the feminist message and direction of the play it was much harder to give stand-out performances against their female counterparts. My favourite of such was given by Kelly Stewart with Alice’s “I wish I was a witch” finale, bringing together the mystic identity of a witch with the idea of feminine independence. The controversial idea that if she was going to be deemed a witch against false accusation after all, she desired the feared power of a witch to wreak havoc on her accusers.


Mountain View

Queen Anne is a tense Shakespearean portrait of the eponymous queen

The costumes by new-on-the-scene designer Eve Carcas, follows this credit. Whilst both setting the scene of a countryside lifestyle with milk-maid aprons, long skirts, boots and corsets, it also added a flavour of style. The skirts were silk and textured, and paired with lacy tops; the most stunning being the costume of Packer, pairing a black velvet corset, layered over a white shoulderless top and lace embroidered skirt. Having said this, whilst the costume and set matched in aesthetic, I wonder whether the environment was too “clean” and stylistic for working class people living on a farm. The lighting also followed this cleanliness, with bright white lights not totally capturing the taunting and disturbing atmosphere to match the horrifying blood-letting scene, screams, mentions of torture and abortion (of which I think should all have content notes because they are quite disturbing.)

Overall, Vinegar Tom was a pleasure to watch. Both being mysteriously idyllic and uncomfortably terrifying, this bewitching play has a lot to offer for modern feminist ideals. Though set in the 17th century, it highlights the intensity of female struggles both felt in the past and modern day, in an engaging and accessible way. Using historical witch-craft ideals paired with an overtly female cast and doc martens, it breaks boundaries against what could be an outdated performance. Highly enjoyable; be ready to be on the edge of your seat!