The Ungodly

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Set on the Stour estuary in Mistley, East Anglia, The Ungodly, is a new historical play by Joanna Carrick, that explores the events which led Mathew Hopkins, Witchfinder General to hunt witches from 1645.

17th Century East Anglia was experiencing civil war and a surge in puritanism. Susan was the daughter of the Vicar of Mistley, and she lived a simple life. After her mother died, the Vicar remarried and her new family included a step-brother, Matthew Hopkins, whom she welcomed like a brother.

Richard Edwards, a wealthy local farmer, wanted Susan to be his wife. After several years of pursual and being denied, she finally agreed and they were happy. As their simple, yet happy life continued with Matthew still part of the family, they tragically lost several babies with seemingly no reason. Each time they tried to manage their grief and carry on but for Susan it got harder and harder.

A woman in the village had a miscarriage, then Richard was spooked off his horse, other unfortunate events happened in the village which normally no one would think about. However, Matthew was becoming more obsessed with such unlucky events, plus he was becoming fanatical with pleasing God and anything which seemed ‘unfortunate’ he began to see patterns of the devil. Initially Richard and Susan dismissed the idea but Matthew constantly made links between bad events and women praying to Satan, eventually convincing Richard and Susan it was the truth.

Matthew took upon himself to question Rebecca West, a young girl in the village who attended a prayer meeting – in truth she was imprisoned, denied sleep & food so probably would have confessed to anything.

From this ‘evidence’ Matthew Hopkins convinced everyone in the village that the group of women at the prayer meeting were witches. Six women were hanged.

Matthew was so captivated by this deed, he made it his mission to seek out and hunt witches across all lands and he became well known, and wealthy. Richard and Susan were left questioning themselves, were they so desperate to find a release for their own anger and grief they were willing to be part of the witch hunt? Was there another path?

It’s a great question to think about: what happens when good people are drawn together to make bad choices and do terrible things?

It’s a dark historical play which doesn’t have much happiness but we were enthralled by the pace of the story, of how slowly but surely Matthew’s beliefs made him bend the truth to his desires and infiltrate the thoughts and choices of others. It also explored how fear, grief and loss can change a person’s perspective. As the story is part of our own local history it was even more fascinating and was made real by the amazing acting.

The cast were mesmerising, so believable in their sadness, it must be so much harder to act tragic plays. The actors were entrancing as we watched them develop the characters over time, as grief weighed them down, or as with Matthew how his obsessions and desire to please God became fanatical. 

This is a fascinating dark play brought to life with great writing and great acting, definitely worth going to see and understanding more about our local history.

Richard Edwards – Christopher Ashman
Susan Edwards – Nadia Jackson
Matthew Hopkins – Vincent Moisy
Rebecca West – Rei Mordue

Photo Credit – Bill Jackson


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