Women, Beware the Devil at the Almeida review

Back in the 17th century, in an elegant house run by Lady Elizabeth (Lydia Leonard) and a handful of female servants, stable girl Agnes (Alison Oliver) is a witch with lofty social ambitions. In a Faustian pact with Elizabeth (who, it is suggested, has herself sold her soul to the Devil), she helps her mistress secure the legacy of her grand house.

A male heir is required so Elizabeth’s brother Edward (Leo Bill) is witchily married to the virginal but eager Catherine (Ioanna Kimbook).

Alas, although Unsteady Eddie is happy to boff servant girls, he is reluctant to perform conjugal duties with his wife. Meanwhile, England is on the brink of civil war.

There is no shortage of ideas in Raczka’s play but none of them are developed.

The limits of female empowerment in a patriarchy, the fallacy of permanence, and social-class divisions are all themes floating like driftwood that never comes together to form a stage-worthy vessel, in spite of Rupert Goold’s typically clean-limbed direction.

And how is it possible to fire three shots from a double-barrelled shotgun without reloading? Witchcraft, probably.

  • Women, Beware the Devil, Almeida Theatre, London, until March 25. Tickets: 020 7359 4404

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