Witchfinder is an immersive music theatre performance piece inspired by the infamous witch finding activities of Matthew Hopkins (self-professed ‘Witchfinder General’) during the 1600’s. The narrative also explores themes of prejudice, difference and division within communities.
Originally developed with a community cast in 2013, in Dec 2020 the show was adapted by a professional creative team for performance at the atmospheric Walpole Old Chapel, Suffolk, with support from Arts Council England.
Due to the limitations the recent pandemic has placed on live performance, the next stage of the project is to develop the piece as an immersive audio recorded performance, making the most of the chapel’s wonderful acoustics and drawing on the talents of an intergenerational chorus from the local community.
You can keep up with the latest project developments in our blog
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.
Amy Mallett (Composer/Writer)
Amy Mallett is a composer, artist and researcher, awarded a PhD in music composition in 2018. Her work is always collaborative, involving practitioners across multiple art forms in the creation of multidimensional works. She is inspired by historical and contemporary real-life stories, and the relationships between people and place. Amy’s work in community settings reflects her interest in creativity as a catalyst for change and growth.
Emma Bernard (Director)
Emma Bernard directs performance for stage, screen, site-specific locations and concert platforms. She works across musical, verbal, visual, and physical performance disciplines, making complex, humane, playful and provocative work in collaboration with a diverse range of people including single artists and groups of hundreds, experienced professionals and absolute beginners.
Aga Serugo-Lugo (Musical Director)
Aga Serugo-Lugo is a vocalist, clarinettist, pianist, composer and workshop leader. For 6 years he sang in the Funk band “Gefunkt”, touring the UK, Europe and Australia. He composes for and plays in the six- piece jazz-fusion group ‘Eclectiv’. As a music leader Aga has delivered educational and community workshops for many organisations from the Royal Opera House to RADA. He currently co-runs the Camberwell Community Choir.
Walpole Old Chapel
Our latest adaptation of Witchfinder was 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. The short film below documents our artist residency at the chapel in Dec 2020.
During the residency, we honed dramaturgic elements and hatched plans for an ambitious tour of the work following Hopkins’ footsteps across East Anglia. However, the continuing pandemic presented barriers to developing the work for live performance, so we branched out in a new direction. With additional funds from Arts Council England, in May/June 2021 we collaborated with visually impaired theatre company Unscene Suffolk and sound artist Simon Keep to develop the work as an immersive audio performance.
Witchfinder Audio Performance
In July 2021 we revisited Walpole Old Chapel to make an audio recording of the work with a professional cast. We were joined by a community chorus featuring performers from Holton St Peter Primary School, singers from The Cut Choir and members of Unscene Suffolk. Ambient recordings made in the chapel were combined with sound design elements to produce an immersive audio recording of Witchfinder premiered at Witchfinder Day; a special event at Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich.
The Cohere Arts Team has produced a range of free educational resources around East Anglian’s witchfinding history for use with KS2-4 students.
Cohere Arts are supported by…