Reviewing Abigail’s Coven: traipsing the labyrinth of a troubled mind

The air in Salem hangs heavy with suspicion, and they’re talkin’ witchcraft. A group of young girls are caught dancing in the woods, and their only way out is to lie through their teeth.

You’re probably familiar with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible—a confronting study of human behaviour under pressure, brimming with pretence, pulpits, and poppets. In the latest Senior Drama Production, Director Mr Ben Dervish-Ali offers us a new look at this perennial favourite. Abigail’s Coven, written by Peter Cox and Fred Goldsworthy, explores the tormented mind of eponymous girl boss, Abigail Williams, as she grapples with her leading role in the deaths of innocent Salemites.

It’s easy to condemn Abby for the grizzly events that unfolded on those fateful days in the colony of Massachusetts Bay. What this production offers, is a chance for contemporary audiences to get her side of the story, poppets and all.

As the play opens, we’re immediately bewitched by the cast of girls following Abby, their unofficial leader, around the stage. As she snaps her fingers, the troupe quickly falls into line, singing (or in this case, chanting) from the same metaphorical songbook. The talented and nimble cast moves as one tight assemblage around the unrecognisable Gehrmann Theatre, reminding us that the fear of being excluded so often seems to trump doing what is right.

But leadership isn’t always easy, especially for those preaching ‘fire and brimstone,’ and there is dissent in the ranks. We’re looking at you, Ruth Putnam, and Mary Warren. Abigail clearly has little patience for snivelling dissidents who jeopardise her master plan, and so she schemes her way out of every difficult situation she encounters. But at what cost? We’re reminded that pointing the finger at others comes at a high price—especially when the love of your life is collateral damage.

Jeremy Gordon’s magical lighting design brings a contemporary edge to the timeless tale. Beams of neon light transform clandestine gatherings into raves, while the harsh red glow warns of a society that has lost its way, caught in the grips of hysteria. The clever costumes, realised by Mrs Katrina Riveros and Mr Ben Dervish-Ali himself, hark back to a bygone era characterised by simplicity, faith, and sheer hard work.

Then there’s the impressive set. Mr Brock Gaffney and his team of master builders have transformed the Gehrmann Theatre into a forest clearing, surrounded by impressive columns of trees and clapboard meeting houses. The aesthetic invokes thoughts of the German expressionism film movement: gnarled limbs of branches seem to reflect Abigail’s inner struggle for peace and redemption, while the façade of the courthouse reminds us that civilisation is a long way off—it’s every woman for herself in these parts.

It would be a hangin’ error to miss it!

Chookas to the Senior Drama cast and crew for the remainder of their season.

Mr David Rawson
Head of Curriculum Development English

Enjoy a selection of photos from Abigail’s Coven in Photos of the Week.