Boutique Theatre are set to launch an intriguing addendum to one of the most harrowing plays of our time. Harrowing because the events are true: The Salem witch trials of 1692 – 1693 were brilliantly dramatized by Arthur Miller in his 1953 classic, The Crucible. Here Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa writes a play set 10 years after the events and focuses on main instigator, Abigail Williams.
“This work is a rare example of a contemporary play based on a classic; the best of both worlds! I was very interested in the visual and immersive qualities of the play,” observes director of Abigail/1702, Elizabeth Millington.
Williams sent twenty people to their deaths and, in Aguirre-Sacasa’s play, now lives under an assumed name on the outskirts of Boston. Quietly striving to atone for her sins.
“Although written only a few years ago, this production captures the old-world atmosphere of the Salem witch trials,” says Millington. “It transports the audience into an unsettling time rich with mystery and superstition. The invisible world of evil was as real as water and air, and witches were a genuine threat to society.”
Millington is very excited to be seducing the audience into the arms of the devil with a sumptuous and enticing environment. “By engaging the senses of sight, smell and sound this production aims to harness the power of live theatre and immerse the audience; bringing the sense of danger and magic into the room. The Devil may be closer than you think…”
Millington explains that Abigail/1702 explores our perpetual struggle with guilt and our desire for forgiveness also highlighting the role of religion in a society rife with a fear of the unknown. “A desire to protect yourself from evil and seek salvation is something all of us understand,” she says. “The play also examines the power balance between genders, the need for family, and of course love!”
“During these times the crime of witchcraft was written into the code of common law,” says Millington explaining the machinations of the day. “There was even a manual on identifying a witch that was as popular as the bible! This manual linked lust and human’s (predominantly women’s) bodies to the devil and contained some unbelievable methods of identifying a witch.”
“Unusual moles or spots were seen as feeding marks left by demonic creatures that would suckle the witch by night. A suspected witch would be weighed against a stack of bibles and would only be deemed innocent if she was of equal weight – a very unlikely outcome! Thus creating a horrific viscous cycle of accusations and hysteria.”
Using the theme of a debt must be paid, Aguirre-Sacasa pits Williams against her own imagined ally because someone has been looking for her since she danced in the woods of Salem. The Devil is demanding Abigail’s soul, but first she must make peace with the woman she most wronged.
Millington describes Aguirre-Sacasa’s work as a dark, unsettling play about a murderess who tries desperately to run away from her crimes in a world infected by paranoia but, try as she might, her debt must be paid. This beautiful, disturbing and macabre production is intelligent, seductive, insidious, and very sexy.
Millington is an award-winning Russian born director, writer and designer. In Australia, she founded the independent theatre company Dead Puppet Society and has created award-winning works for Metro Arts, Brisbane Festival, QPAC and the Adelaide Fringe amongst others. This is her first time working with Boutique Theatre, who are an independent Melbourne-based company co-founded by Tegan Jones and Emma Caldwell, in 2012. Boutique Theatre strive toward contemporary, relevant and excellent theatre and are a company passionate about diversity, inclusivity and creating opportunities for creatives in this often volatile industry. They consistently present works of cultural and social significance, and maintain a dialogue with audiences about universal topics in creative and innovative ways.
July 14 – 30