Written by Sasha Wilson, Bury The Hatchet focuses on the fatal story of the Borden family and how daughter Lizzie brutally murdered her mother and father in 1892.

This piece of theatre follows Lizzie’s story as she attends the murder trial and is declared not guilty; she runs through her life and avoids punishment. The entire production is set up as a history lesson, rather than a play – the actors (Wilson, Joseph Prowen & David Leopold), who play multiple characters throughout, go back and forth between being in-character and addressing the audience. Accompanying the storytelling is a range of prairie music played on a variety of instruments, aiding the narrative and setting the scene.

Generally, there is too much happening on the Bury The Hatchet stage, leaving viewers perplexed at what is actually happening in the life of Lizzie Borden. The idea of a history lesson being portrayed is a clever concept, but too often there is no separation between characters such that the storyline becomes very confused and ambiguous. With a historic retelling of this kind, more emphasis needs placing on the simplicity of such a tragic tale – the audience can ask their own questions about the scenario afterwards.

The music is a good addition to move the story along – played on traditional instruments, such as banjo and washboard, helps add to the production’s historic feeling. But Bury The Hatchet will benefit from a lengthier score to shift focus away from the more confusing spoken parts of the show. Also, throughout the performance, a variety of modern references are made in an attempt to entertain the audience. This comes across as trying too hard to be comedic – the feeling of pantomime does not fit with the overall scope of this show.

Bury The Hatchet is an interesting method of portraying such a topic, but in execution the cast need to focus more on ensuring an unambiguous storyline with a musical flair. The musical aspect is certainly the best feature to this show, so it’s disappointing to see it be slightly let down by a weak attempt at storytelling.

 

 

★★☆☆☆

Bury The Hatchet runs as part of the VAULT Festival until 11 March 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.