Witchfinder is a 60-minute immersive music theatre performance piece inspired by the infamous witch finding activities of Matthew Hopkins (self-professed ‘Witchfinder General’) during the 1600’s. The show combines elements of immersive theatre, music and song in a narrative that explores themes of prejudice, difference and division within communities.

“Exciting, entertaining, inclusive and gutsy.”

Starting life as a community theatre project back in 2013, in 2020 the show was resurrected for redevelopment by composer and writer Amy Mallett and director Emma Bernard. After being adapted into an audio performance in 2021, thanks to funding from Arts Council England, Witchfinder was finally premiered by a professional cast and intergenerational chorus to live audiences on 21 and 22 May 2022 at Walpole Old Chapel, Suffolk.

With integrated audio description and a BSL interpreter/performer, the production prioritised accessibility and showcased the professional debut of visually impaired performer Clare Burman.

Access the programme for Witchfinder at Walpole 21/22 May 2022

Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General


Witchfinder takes inspiration from the East Anglian historical figure, Matthew Hopkins (1620-1647), who systematically accused and condemned suspected ‘witches’ across East Anglia in the 1600’s. Hopkins’ career in the art of witch hunting is thought to have launched when he moved to Mistley, Essex in 1644. An impoverished lawyer whose father was a Puritan minister, Hopkins began by successfully outing several ‘witches’ in his village.

He went on to conduct a tour of terror across East Anglia, claiming to be officially commissioned by Parliament as ‘The Witchfinder General’; with a mission to uncover and prosecute witches. In 1647 he published a book detailing his witch-hunting methods: ‘The Discovery of Witches’. Between the years 1644 and 1647, Hopkins and his associates are believed to have been responsible for the deaths of over 200.

Walpole Old Chapel

The most recent developments of Witchfinder were inspired by the fantastically atmospheric Walpole Old Chapel in Suffolk, England. In the 16th Century, Suffolk Puritans transformed this timber framed farmhouse into a religious building. Simple and bare with no altar or cross, they created a space which was radically different to the established churches from which they had broken away.

A two-tier pulpit presides over a maze of wooden booths on the ground floor, overlooked by a first floor gallery which provides the perfect view for audiences to witness the horrors and dramatic scenes as they play out below. Most importantly, the unique acoustics of the building provide the most powerful immersive experience to audience members as they are embroiled in the sound world of the show.

Witchfinder Audio Performance

During the pandemic, the many risks posed by live performance took Witchfinder in a new direction that we believe helped shape it into the inclusive, vibrant live performance work it is today. Throughout 2021, we collaborated with visually impaired theatre company Unscene Suffolk and sound artist Simon Keep to develop sound design elements, with the aim of producing an audio version of the piece; like a radio play with songs, music & ambisonic sound effects.

The production of our ‘audio performance’ version of Witchfinder also saw the involvement of an intergenerational community chorus from the local area. Children from Holton St Peter Primary School, local choral group The Cut Choir and performers from Unscene Suffolk took part in a series of workshops to learn material from the show. This fabulous community chorus joined us as we revisited Walpole Old Chapel to record the work with a professional cast and band.

Ambient recordings made in the chapel were combined with sound design elements to produce an immersive audio recording of Witchfinder that was premiered at Witchfinder Day; a special event at Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich in August 2021.

Excerpts from Witchfinder Audio Performance

With the generous support of Heritage Lottery Fund, as the pandemic lifted, Witchfinder audio performance was shared with live promenade theatre elements at Suffolk Archives’ new venue The Hold in Sept 2021 to an audience of Suffolk teachers. This ‘Immersive History’ event, now featured as a case study in the National Archives, welcomed audiences to interact with the show’s characters before experiencing the audio performance in The Hold’s auditorium space. A complementary art exhibition at The Hold showcased artworks created by visitors to Witchfinder Day.

The Cohere Arts Team produced a range of free educational resources around East Anglian’s witchfinding history for use with KS2-4 students.

You can read a full evaluation report of our 2021 Heritage Lottery Funded project here.