The Witches of West Fife

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

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Two stars

“DOUBLE, double, toil and trouble...” And sadly that is as far as the spell-making goes in what is Jane Livingstone’s third - and least effective - contribution to A Play, a Pie and a Pint. On paper, The Witches of West Fife looked intriguing: three Fife women sign up as extras, playing witches in a film version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth - whereupon the boundaries between fiction and reality begin to blur. Wishful shades of Outlander, maybe, as the present day unexpectedly gives way to 1606 and the reign of King James IV and I, when the newly installed monarch was obsessed with witchcraft and demonology and Shakespeare was desperate to acquire royal patronage - hence the penning of Macbeth.

The arrival of Livingstone’s “play within a play” is never really justified beyond being an excuse for re-telling brutal details of the witch-finding that King James encouraged - and for presenting this persecution in terms of a patriarchal society repressing and abusing any woman suspected of having “unnatural” skills like, for instance, being able to read. Never mind eye of newt and toe of frog, the witches’ brew that Livingstone concocts is rendered hard to swallow because - unlike Miss Veitch’s Roses and Jocky Wilson Said, her earlier PPP successes - there is an erratic quality to the time-hopping structure, and a sense that character and dialogue are hostages to her copious research. Kirstin McLean, Sally Reid and Clare Waugh certainly go the extra mile here. Joshing merrily as the chums who thought being extras would make a milestone birthday extra special, they then valiantly double up as dramatis personae from Livingtone’s imagined slice of Shakespeare’s life and times. Happily the pies and pints hail from a much sounder cauldron.