Heaven Burns (2 stars)

Heaven Burns

Wandered tale from a dark past

Set during the witch-trials, Heaven Burns is a dowdy three-hander that fails to take advantage of its themes of religious extremism and gender swapping. In a determinedly chronological sequence, a woman is inspired to become a witchfinder, establishes herself through disguising herself as a man, has a servant fall in love with her, become exposed as a fraud and imprisoned. Unfortunately, the production cannot disguise the simplicity of the script, with the characters rarely more than cyphers for the plot's movement.

In the relationship between the disguised witchfinder and his servant, there is a sexual tension and irony that promises complexity, but once the gender fraud is revealed – by the arrival of the man whose identity was stolen – the potential is wasted. She betrays her beloved master – and kills herself in an unconvincing monologue – and her master ends up imprisoned, set to be judged by the same system that she used to persecute others. It is solidly performed, but there is little depth to the script, and the production's basic scenography and lighting – and inappropriate blast of rock to describe the transformation of peasant woman into witchfinder – fails to enhance the dramatic potential.

Assembly Roxy, until 27 Aug, 2.35pm, £11 (£10)

Heaven Burns

  • 2 stars

Jen McGregor Morayshire, 1662. Runaway Isobel works for charismatic witch-pricker John Dixon. She worships him, but when he's accused of falsifying his identity, will she accept that he's not the man he claims to be… or indeed a man at all? A pitch-black exploration of gender politics and religious fundamentalism.

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