THE MAKING OF The Ockendon Witch
The original play was performed on the foyer stage of the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch on 1 April 2019.
Well received, by the time of lockdown in the UK on 23 March 2020 the short play was in development to extend it to a 60-minute one act play for what, after the closure of theatres, became a postponed performance originally due in the autumn of 2020.
The Stronger Together Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund, Thurrock CVS responded to the pandemic to offer small grants to local artistes for them to continue to make work and to design it to be able to be accessed by the community during lockdown and current social distancing measures.
The idea to make the play into a digital work was inspired by this initiative and the reporting in April 2020 of a court hearing in Singapore held entirely on the Zoom platform. A 37-year old man accused of drug dealing was sentenced to death by video conferencing.
Communities in Tudor England suffered lockdowns and social distancing due to waves of the bubonic plague. The witch trial is reimagined as taking place in this way.
A director was appointed and a cast chosen, with a script adaptation to suit the new idea and the medium.
Each actor in The Ockendon Witch appears from their own home under lockdown and social distancing rules. The trial was recorded on Zoom in its entirety but at the same time high quality video was obtained by mobile phone footage. The actor sits before a green screen, not in a prison dungeon, court room, stable block or a wealthy farmhouse interior. These locations were added later.
The Court template adds to the illusion that this is indeed an as live Tudor witch trial interrupted by some sort of pandemic and reimagined for our times. Even the contemporary music that accompanies the final scene was freshly recorded at home under similar conditions. Then the true witchcraft of film editing was added to the brew.
Supported by Stronger Together Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund, Thurrock CVS.
The Ockendon Witch was first performed on the foyer stage of the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch on 1 April 2019 with the following cast:
Agnes Byllinge Josephine Rattigan
Judith Foster Sioned Jones
Humphrey Frith William McGeogh
Roger Nowell JP James Tobin
Directed by Scott Le Crass
Rehearsals of the original play at the Queen's Theatre, March 2019 with writer Richard Margrave and Josephine Rattigan and Sioned Jones.