Cast go on spell-binding tour

Sabbat director Amy Leach with actors Nisa Cole, Christine Mackie, Robert Calvert and Hannah Emanuel at Jubilee Tower in the Trough of Bowland.
Sabbat director Amy Leach with actors Nisa Cole, Christine Mackie, Robert Calvert and Hannah Emanuel at Jubilee Tower in the Trough of Bowland.

THE cast of a Lancaster theatre’s latest production have walked in the footsteps of some of the characters they will portray.

On the first day of rehearsals for the Lancashire Witches drama, Sabbat, the cast visited the Trough of Bowland, through which those accused of witchcraft are thought to have travelled, and were given a guided tour of Lancaster Castle where the witches were tried and imprisoned.

Lancaster-based Christine Mackie, who plays Alice Nutter, joined the Sabbat rehearsals after filming Downton Abbey, in which she appears again as Daphne Bryant.

And another familiar face from television is Nisa Cole, who played schoolgirl Amy Porter in three series of BBC1’s Waterloo Road.

From June 7, Nisa will appear as Jennet Preston in Sabbat, which runs at the Duke, Moor Lane, until June 16, before it goes on tour. It will return to The Dukes for an extended run from July 17 to 21.

Her role as Jennet sees her appear as one of the women caught up in England’s most infamous witch hunt 400 years ago.

Nisa is one of two cast members new to The Dukes’ production of Sabbat, which was first staged at the Lancaster theatre in 2009 when it enjoyed a record-breaking run.

Robert Calvert will be new to the role of Roger Nowell, the magistrate who led the investigation into the Lancashire witches.

Christine Mackie and Hannah Emanuel (Judith Nowell) return to the roles they played in 2009.

A spokesman for the Dukes said: “Sabbat attempts to unravel the mysteries still surrounding the Lancashire witch trials.

“Did Alice Nutter and her other acquaintances really take part in a witches’ secret meeting – the sabbat – or were they innocent victims at a time of paranoia?

“The play imagines the events leading up to the trial and execution of the witches in Lancaster, and asks how many lives were destroyed by laws born out of fear?

“Sabbat tells the human story set against a climate of fear and superstition and will be a focal point for this year’s 400th anniversary commemoration of England’s biggest witch trial.

“This tale of persecution begins with a secret meeting held high on a hill in the wild and lawless area of Pendle in Lancashire – one of the ‘dark corners of the land.’ It ends on another hill, in Lancaster, where 10 people are hanged for witchcraft.”

This anniversary production, presented in The Round, will bring the Sabbat story to new audiences, especially when it goes on tour, a rarity for The Dukes.

Joe Sumsion, Dukes director, said: “Sabbat is one of the most successful new plays which The Dukes has produced in recent years.

“It’s a compelling play which really opens up the story of the Lancashire witches, a subject which has an enduring fascination for the public.

“I’m delighted we will be re-making Sabbat for audiences at The Dukes and across Lancashire and beyond.”

To book tickets, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500, or visit {http:// www.dukes-lancaster.org|www.dukes-lancaster.org}.