Eileen Atkins is sublime, what more do you need to know. She commands the stage with the lightest touch and I have but one criticism - I wish we'd seen more of her. Atkins is Mother Sawyer who, only after years of abuse and being accused of being a witch, decides to wreak revenge and sells her soul to the devil who appears to her in the form of a black dog. Meanwhile, Frank Thorney (Ian Bonar), having married his lover to secure his inheritance, proceeds to marry again for financial gain with predictable tragic results. Bumping along with these two stories is that of Cuddy Banks (Dafydd Llyr Thomas) a crude buffoon who befriends the black dog in order to bewitch a prospective lover.
The black dog, Tom, the witches familiar, the devil, a lithe and disturbingly alluring Jay Simpson, he has a great physicality and delivered an utterly compelling performance.
This was a nicely atmospheric production firmly set within the period of the plays writing. Although I may have been tempted to trim it here and there. Whether the three plotlines work well together is debateable, I wasn't entirely convinced, but the story of Mother Sawyer, a poverty stricken old woman, unfairly abused and an outcast, was certainly worth telling, if only there was more.
This production has a relatively short run but do try and see it, if for nothing else but the master class from Dame Eileen. Having now seen all the plays in 'The Roaring Girls' season, I am yet to be convinced by the quality of some of these playwrights - or maybe I am simply more forgiving of Shakespeare.