Fury Theatre‘s Abigail, in collaboration with The Asylum Players, continues the story of The Crucible in presenting the life of Abigail Williams and her friend Mercy Lewis following the Salem Witch Trials.
Despite the clear havoc their testimony had caused (the death of at least twenty people) the aftermath of this experience is only vaguely touched on in this sequel.
The play’s co-writer, Laura Turner, plays Abigail as a complex force of nature, with Lucy Sheree Cooper as Mercy, submissive and deferential to her friend.
They find themselves, after a period running from the horrors of Salem, in a boarding house which is in itself full of peril and misogyny.
Milly (a sympathetic Sarah Isbell), landlady Mrs Constance (an amusing Sophie Kamal), and Jack (a duplicitous James Green) all have an effect on the girls for good or evil.
This is a play which does not shy from dealing with the dark side women had to face at this time – racism, sexism, and classism are all present, and the question of who to trust is in the forefront.
Abigail does not escape scrutiny for her actions, haunted as she is by an accusing spirit, but you never quite get a hold on the level of guilt she might feel.
Co-writer and director Stephen Gilliard evokes a feeling of a grimy New England full of privilege, prostitution and perception.
The men act as protectors but see women as property and commodity; the women may resent their lot but are powerless to change it.
Mercy’s “rite of passage” is a moment of surprising violence: you can turn away much more easily when watching on a screen but it must have been deeply shocking in real life.
Abigail runs over two hours and does feel as if it stretches its point a little. A complex play with a deep story for each character, it may be better served as separate pieces with more space to focus.
Milly is a particularly fascinating woman, for example. And the sexual politics which were such a force throughout The Crucible‘s glimpse into what happened in Salem clearly impact on Abigail, but we don’t quite get a handle on what drives her.
This is the first showing of a piece in development – it will be very interesting to see how this evolves.
A difficult play touching on conscience and chafing at convention, Abigail finishes its run at The Space tonight (7 May) but the on-demand version runs until 21 May.
Image credit: Richard Hall