Four women, dressed in white, wait in silence in a dark basement under a church, as an eerie religious dirge is playing.

The women are all accused of witchcraft and await their fate in desperate fear. So begins The Unbinding, launched on the night of Halloween, at the Shoebox Theatre.

 Researched and devised by the Wrong Shoes Theatre Company, directed by Luke Marquez, the play unfolds as a sequence of episodes in which the women explore their individual stories, conflicts, friendships and terrors.

To say more about the plot would spoil its impact, but suffice to say, this is raw, powerful and sometimes horrifying. Combining dialogue, intense physical performances and unsettling masks, the play takes you by the throat and does not let go until the very end.

The company researched documents about witches and witch trials from Wiltshire, and further afield, to capture the reality of this historical persecution. What emerges with shocking clarity, is how timeless are the themes of misogyny, and mob hysteria.

The four actors - Louise Catherwood, Daniella Faircloth, Hannah Marquez and Rebecca Martin – are entirely invested in this intense and harrowing performance. The confines of the venue itself contribute to a sense of claustrophobia. The music, composed by Gary Bamford, unwinds continually behind the action onstage – but succeeds in enhancing the performance rather than intruding or dictating an emotional response.

The theme of difference, and the need for tolerance, is perhaps explained too much at the end – the play speaks for itself with compelling clarity. But this is a work in progress and Tuesday’s performance the very first. The company plan to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe next year. 
The company has been creating work in Swindon for around 10 years now, and this will be their third Edinburgh performance.

After the performance, Luke said: “We want to create something challenging and new, and able to stand up against other new and exciting work. We are holding the flag for Swindon, artistically.”

The Unbinding will be performed at the Shoebox Theatre at 8pm till Saturday November 4. Be warned, it contains disturbing scenes, including those of a sexual nature, nudity, violence and strong language. It is suitable for ages 14 plus, and strobe lights are used.
Tickets are £10, available from
                  — SARAH SINGLETON