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May 19, 2022

Interview: Tim Winton-Brown

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Niall, Captain David-Ross, Douglas In The Last Witch

Rochdale Theatre, Lismore  | Kohinur Hall, Main Arm | 21 June – 14 July | $20-25 

A Fire is Coming

Out of the depths of magical Scottish lore comes the story of Janet Horne, the last woman to be accused of witchcraft and consorting with the Devil in the UK in 1727.

The Last Witch, written by Rona Munro for the 2009 Edinburgh Festival, sees a darkness born out of the grinding poverty of the lives of the 18th century Scottish highlands, in Dornoch, and in the vengeful hearts of men struggling with the free spirit of an independent woman who is not afraid of them.

Eventually their haphazard attempts at controlling her unconventional ways result in downfall as the men rule the Law, but the real power resides in the emotional lives, friendships, and the sensuality of the village women.

Munro’s play confidently toys with uncertainty and skips along the line between fantasy and reality with playful ease, examining an old world of darkly ancient beliefs and an emerging new one where a different kind of knowledge flourishes.

Based on the true story of Janet Horne, the production reveals the strength of women living in a brutal and unforgiving time.

Produced and directed by Tim Winton-Brown, played by a talented and experienced ensemble cast and supported by a sensational design and technical team, the production explores the story of a woman unafraid to challenge the patriarchal status quo. We spoke to Tim to find out how 18th-century Scotland finds its way to the northern rivers.

What is it about about Janet Horne’s story that sang to you?

I’ve long had an interest in the subject matter and the poetic lyricism of the language – and that narrative of a strong, defiant woman’s journey.

How do you feel the attitude toward women has changed in this since since the 1800s; do you think there is still enough residue of that attitude from society – wanting women to behave – that makes this story speak to 21st-century women?

Yes. Although society has made tremendous leaps forward, I feel that the feminist struggle continues to this day, in everything from pay equity, to representation in politics at every level of government, to parity of big business CEOs and board composition. Powerful women, and women in positions of power, continue to be either underrepresented or treated worse and paid less than men. The face of sexism and misogyny may have changed, but I think it is still powerfully prevalent in our society. However, things are changing, and will continue to change.

Was it difficult to ‘feel’ the plight of Jane Horne when directing the players?

Yep. There’s has never been a witch burning ever recorded in Australian Law, so it’s difficult for me to be able to truly identify with Ms Horne’s situation, both as an Australian, and as a man. And, as a director, I find myself at times deferring to the actors’ experience and I’m grateful for the collaborative, ensemble approach embraced by the cast.

What has a 200-year-old story got to entice a 2018 audience?

An amazing story, a powerful script, and a universal theme of the struggle against oppression and abuse of power that echoes through the centuries to this very day.

The production opens on the winter solstice, 21 June, at the Rochdale Theatre in Lismore for four performances before moving to Kohinur Hall in Main Arm for three weeks, closing on July 14.

Tickets available through the Main Arm General Store, The Mullumbimby Bookshop, and Music Bizarre in Lismore, or search The Last Witch online at trybooking.com

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