Pros: An entertaining storytelling format with strong musical support.
Cons: The absence of a director is keenly felt in the lack of atmosphere and structure.
Based on the famous unsolved murder of Andrew Borden and his wife Abby, Bury The Hatchet delves into the details and motives that would have instigated the only alleged person responsible – Lizzie Borden.
Tried and later acquitted, Borden’s youngest daughter was accused of killing the couple in one of the bedrooms of their Fall River estate in Massachusetts with several axe blows. The inadequacy of forensic studies at the time, together with the general muddiness of the inquiry, persuaded the jury to drop the case due to insufficient evidence. The incident sparked clamour across the country and, despite having been found innocent, Lizzie spent the rest of her life confined to her house, considered a murderess by everyone.
Described by the creatives as a “feminist revisioning of the Lizzie Borden story,” speculations are made about the woman’s sexual inclinations. Suggestions are also made that the blood found on her clothes had physiological origins. These are the only two elements I observed which would technically suggest an alternative approach; although I feel it should take more than mentioning a period and a presumed lesbian affair to brand a work as feminist.
Written and performed by Sasha Wilson, with the acting and musical support of David Leopold and Joseph Prowen, the drama is mainly delivered in the form of storytelling. The cast openly exchange comments and guidelines, as if they were in the rehearsal room. On a bare, dark set, the trio play a selection of musical instruments, interposing each significant scene with soulful choral melodies from the North-American blues and gospel repertoire.
Although all very talented performers, their delivery comes across as hasty and not entirely thought through. The songs, the comedic interludes, the elements of storytelling, and the meta-theatre sketches are overall entertaining but feel as if they were thrown at the audience, lacking any great conviction and the necessary atmosphere. This could be due to the devised nature of the performance, but also to the noticeable absence of directorial guidance to shape and structure the script.
With its intriguing plot, the life of Lizzie Borden can offer much more excitement than the bland account given in Bury The Hatchet. With touching live songs and the evocative setting, playwright Sasha Wilson had all the tools necessary to forge a unique experience, but she should have put them to a better use.
Author: Sasha Wilson
Producer: Out of the Forest Theatre
Booking Until: This show has now completed its run.