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Explore Nuart Aberdeen / Create your own tour

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Photo credit - Aberdeen Arts Centre

Two weeks from today Aberdeen will be awash with witches – from grown-ups enjoying a Halloween night on the town to wee kids dressed up for guising.

It’s all fun and games and laughter – a million miles away from the harsh and brutal reality of Scotland’s bloody witch hunts that saw more than 3,000 innocent women, and many men, tortured and murdered, many of them here in Aberdeen.

The devastating truth of what they went through is put into sharp – and powerful – focus with The Maggie Wall, now running at the Children’s Theatre at Aberdeen Arts Centre.

It is, as you would expect, horrific and disturbing as young Maggie tells her story from her jail cell, battered, bloodied and bruised.

What you don’t expect, though, is the warmth, humour and sheer joy of life Maggie relates as she unfurls the story of how she came to be waiting for the executioners to drag her to be burnt at the stake.

In a compelling hour-long monologue, Blythe Jandoo, breathes real life into Maggie, full of laughter and wonder at the many “astonishing” things in her life, like first love and the beauty of the full moon.

But that infectious joie de vivre is tempered with anger at the spiteful mix of jealousy, misogyny and abuse of power that sees an innocent, loving and loveable girl, condemned as a witch.

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Photo credit - Aberdeen Arts Centre

You cannot help but be utterly captivated by Maggie – and Blythe’s compelling performance – which makes the unflinching ending of the play a tough and emotional watch.

The venue and setting of The Maggie Wall – the first performance in the refurbished Children’s Theatre - heightens the mix of emotions at play.

It is an intimate space with the small audience seated almost in the round, within touching distance of Blythe. Moments when she makes eye contact with you adds to the connection with this compelling character. At times it feels like a gut punch.

And the simple set – a backcloth standing in for a rough cast wall – plus the evocative lighting and sparse but effective soundscape, create an atmosphere that puts you in that cell with Maggie.

At the heart of The Maggie Wall is a plangent line that the stories and the names of all those thousands of innocent people murdered in an age of superstition and ignorance will be forgotten.

The Maggie Wall – and Blythe - makes sure they won’t be.

Runs until Saturday, 21 October. Information and tickets can be found here

Review by Scott Begbie