The Witch’s Mark, written and directed by Timothy N. Evers, draws inspiration from historical and contemporary accounts of the Scottish witch trials. Edinburgh in 1591, is in the middle of a witch craze, and it’s a place where anyone can be accused and put to death.Agnes Sampson (Celeste Markwell), a healer offering traditional remedies, is an obvious target for the witch hunters. She even has a book, bequeathed to her by her mother (who was also a healer), detailing the medicinal properties of various plants.
Agnes Sampson (Celeste Markwell), a healer offering traditional remedies, is an obvious target for the witch hunters. She even has a book, bequeathed to her by her mother (who was also a healer), detailing the medicinal properties of various plants.
Her accusers allege that she danced naked for the devil. But did she? She says, quite clearly, that she did not. She admits to being a healer, who gathered plants to make her medicines, but she was never tempted by the Devil (played Evers), as is claimed.
In The Witch’s Mark , we hear Agnes’ testimony and defence. The Devil taunted her, she says. He offered her a diamond and tried to groom her too. She even sees him in the eyes of her accusers, but she has never given in to him. Never.
Agnes gives a clear, confident and defiant testimony. She’s a strong woman, and this makes The Witch’s Mark, set more than 400 years ago, feel very contemporary. The way Agnes speaks is reminiscent of the assertiveness of today’s activists, whether they’re fighting for the rights of women, ethnic minorities or those who identify as LGBTQI*.
The problem is, almost all of this play is defiant speeches. And we hear almost nothing about the other people involved in this story and their views. Even the Devil, seemingly so important to the story, says very little. It all feels a little one-sided.
A naive girl called Gilly Duncan, an aspiring healer who turned Agnes and other women in to the authorities, is someone I’d like to have heard from – or more about. Why did she do it? And did she really fall pray to the Devil’s advances, as Agnes claims?
Odinn Orn Hilmarsson’s sound design, provides an evocative soundtrack to this play, and Celeste Markwell gives a wonderful performance as Agnes, but contrasting voices would have added depth to The Witch’s Mark. And as great as it is to see a strong woman defy dominant men and a biased justice system, we needed to hear from characters who represent the patriarchy and the establishment to understand the full horrors of how women like Agnes have been brutalised and put down.