True tale of the Burnham poisoners

The Poisoners' Pact

The Poisoners' Pact

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Stuff of Dreams Theatre company brought a witch’s brew to Sedgeford Village Hall as part of Creative Arts East project to bring live theatre into rural communities, writes Melanie Calway

A packed house of 110 turned out to see The Poisoners’ Pact – the strange but true tale of the Burnham poisoners, two women in 1830s Burnham Market, who became a little too keen on removing obstacles by means of arsenic poisoning.

In the case of Cat Frary, a vexatious husband and in Fanny Billing, her lover’s wife.

The story is told through a mixture of music, comedy, slapstick and melodrama. The opening song ‘Give them a bit of the arsenic they deserve’ was reminiscent of the Victorian music hall.

Great fun was had with double entendre during the cookery demonstrations, where Fanny shows how to cook her Norfolk dumplings, laced with arsenic.

The cast of three delivered assured performances. Joanna Swan’s inimitable comic timing had the audience laughing and she provided an excellent foil to Kiara Hawker’s more sinister character Cat, who subtly conveyed shades of the mysterious village medicine woman or witch.

They were ably supported by Jamie-Rose Monk who played Elizabeth Southgate, a woman whose child they inadvertently bumped off. Elizabeth’s portrayal reminds us of the serious impact of the murders and it is she who proves to be their nemesis and who has the last word in the play.

Although overlong in parts it was a most enjoyable evening’s entertainment.