Witches' Gets

First performed as part of Cymera Festival, The Pleasance, Edinburgh, June 8th & 9th 2019

Emotionally gripping and beautifully performed, Witches’ Gets, grabbed its audience with both hands and refused to let go until the lights went up. (Dawn Geddes, The Scots Magazine)

I attended 'Witch's Gets'at the Cymera Festival, Edinburgh.The play is based on the true story of Norwegian witch trials on the arctic island of Vardø over three hundred years ago. I was very interested to learn whether such a dark and harrowing tale could be successfully distilled into a 55-minute piece of theatre, and I was not disappointed. The expectant hush from the audience as we took our seats before the minimalist, candlelit set was  palpable, and from the opening lines, the all-female cast swept us up in a maelstrom of claim and counter-claim, recrimination, bitterness and grief.

The brutality of what happened to those young women in what became known as The Witch Panic of 1662 was laid before us in forensic detail; the accusations, the politics, the grudges, all steeped in a climate of superstition and fear. The performances were bold and powerful, sometimes whimsical and always poignant. Written by Noelle Harrison, the script was raw, unflinching but strangely poetic, as charms and incantations swept through the space. This play, blending as it does spoken word, film projection, music, and movement, is based on Harrison’s novel Where the Ice Burns. The projected segments, which portray a young Scottish woman researching the trials and questioning her own identity and heritage bring the piece bang up to date, a timely reminder that in a world ruled by men, female power is still considered a dark force to be reckoned with.

A haunting, relevant piece of theatre, which kept me on the edge of my seat and thinking about it long after it ended. We all have traits which may once have singled us out as witches. The plays hashtag #onceawitch continues a conversation begun 300 years ago and still totally relevant today. (Sandra Ireland, author of Bone Deep, The Unmaking of Ellie Rook, and Underneath the Skin.)
Witches Gets is a thoroughly immersive experience, where you are taken back to the frightening hysteria of 1600s Norwegian witch hunts, as brought to life by a girl in current day Scotland who is facing her own battles. If she'd lived hundreds of years ago, would she have been branded a witch too? Through letters of the time, she becomes haunted by the girls who came before her, while the audience is similarly haunted by the spectacle before them. The passion of the cast acting out their roles so expertly and in such close proximity to the audience enhances the viewing experience, ensuring that it remains something that sticks with the viewer long after the last word has been spoken. Noelle Harrison has created a visual work of art that I would definitely recommend. (Elizabeth Frattaroli)
 

Aurora Theatre Company Created in collaboration with Donna Ansley & Kate Pengelly

First performed The Ramor Theatre, Virginia, County Cavan, Ireland. 2005

The Good Sister

Poor Niamh, she’s been stuck at the bottom of that lake for so long. All that water has her bloated. She was such a slender thing, like a reed, remember, and the water has made her hair turn green and it waves in the current like algae. She stares up and all she can see day after day is an eternity of blue, sometimes the strong limbs of a swan, or the bottom of a boat, a fishing line dropping down, the small lead weight like a bullet shooting past her eyes. She’s stuck there and all she can see is blue but she can hear alright. She heard you screaming, and she heard Edel calling her name and her howls….and then she heard her own funeral, poor Gabriel’s wretched sobs, and when they said ashes to ashes and dust to dust she shuddered right there in the mud, and pulled so hard to get up and out. And then she heard your wedding, and the music her Billy, your husband, played for you. Did you know that all those songs were about her my darling? All this time he’s still been playing for Niamh. She’s his muse. She knows all this but all she can hear are the sounds of your life, Catriona, Edel is too far away for her, so it is you she hears. She heard your baby’s first cry of life and the fear inside you like a sword slashing the air around you. I stayed with her at first, down at the bottom of the lake but really it was too hard for me because I had greeted it, the water had long released me but Niamh fought against it, and now it would not let her go. You know like when you are stuck in brambles and if you panic it gets worse? So my darling, I am a free spirit, and it was Edel I went to first. Niamh was only a baby. Niamh was an angel. At least she had the voice and face of one. Ten years ago she mysteriously drowned in the local lake, while out with her two older sisters, Edel and Catriona, identical twins. Was it an accident? Or was there something darker lurking beneath the sky that bleak winter’s day? A struggle between three siblings for love and eternity?

Aurora Theatre Company First performed Dublin Fringe Festival 1995

Black Virgin

There is a woman in my dreams. Her name is Sara. And occasionally she speaks to me. Her words hang like crystals in my memory. And occasionally she balances the sun on a finger tip and spins it with her breath. There are no shadows for the light is the brightest it has ever been. And from the crystals, rainbows are born. My many pasts, my future. Black Virgin is based upon Mary Magdalene’s and her Egyptian maidservant, Sara’s exile from Egypt, in the years following the resurrection. They are put to sea in a boat with two other women, Mary Salome and Mary, Mother of James. BLACK VIRGIN follows the journey of the four women from Egypt to their final destination, the Camargue in the south of France from whence springs the Cult of the Black Virgin. The women travel from the edge of despair, rejection and desolation to a sense of hope and belief in their own self and sensuality through the teaching and healing of Sara, who is transformed from servant to an image of a goddess.

Aurora Theatre Company

Northern Landscapes

Northern Landscapes explores the thoughts and feelings of two young women, Gemma and Roz, struggling to achieve wholeness and integrity. The play follows their journey through different “landscapes” of experience from the shadow of a childhood darkened by abuse and its cold extremes towards the light of creativity and the affirmation of life. Music, slides and film accentuate the poetic narrative. The different media act as fragments from the subconscious of the characters, and at the same time lead you through the different landscapes of the play.
In Noelle Harrison ……we have found a passionate, poetic and distinctive new voice. Irish Independent Northern Landscapes….is an intriguing exploration of the damaged psyche of women brutalised by men who should have cherished them. The Irish Times Northern Landscapes is an important work that deserves a much wider audience. Evening Press