Review by Kate Gaul
1605. Two boys have been murdered. Their mum wants justice. Brian Gunter is the richest in the village in the south of England and, with that, come intimidation and favours. A tense feud starts between the Gunters and the Gregorys, and when Brian’s daughter Anne falls ill, there’s only one thing that could have happened - she must have been bewitched.
Dirty Hare (UK) present “Gunter”: a chaotic reimagining of the most notorious bewitchment case you've never heard of. This retelling has blood, honey, water, animal masks, squashed fruit and a banging soundtrack.
As enter the space a video projection of contemporary football violence plays. Very male. Very ugly. This mirrors the ancient village in south of England’s hysteria over the possible bewitchment. It signals that this show is about the effects of violence and the patriarchy. Historian Lydia Higman - who wrote the show and plays electric guitar and drums side of stage - introduces a harrowing tale of misogyny and fear. Higman continues to narrate the story as required alongside projected titles to set each scene. The action is played out by three women Julia Grogan, Norah Lopez-Holden, and Hannah Jarrett-Scott. All great actors playing multiple characters with impressive three-part harmony singing which infuses the piece with a charged atmosphere. It’s a multi-talented and astute company of women in the feminist fringe work. That we are an old Anatomy Lecture Theatre adds to the ambience of witchy incantation and discovery. The character of Anne writhes, disappears, and reappears nails, is opening brazen – everything you’d expect from the damned. Anne is put on trial. Gunter is put on trial. It’s an edge of the seat ride with possibly predictable outcomes and it does feel a bit worthy by the end. But that doesn’t make the production any less enjoyable.
This is drama, physical theatre, music, and history fused into a haunting story telling form by this all-female company. The real-life case drew the attention of academics, doctors, and even King James I, but most documents (as well as the result of the trial) have been lost in the chaos that ensued when the Gunpowder Plot failed (more ye olde English history!). “Gunter” is energetic, genuinely amusing, and quite original in its reclaiming of Anne’s voice.