In Holly Morgan‘s third Fringe show in as many years, the comic/singer/writer returns to analysing the patriarchy through the prism of divas and cabaret. This year, the subject is witchcraft and, aided by her on-stage familiar (real-life husband Tom Moores dressed as a lycra black cat), Morgan’s show is a guided historical tour of the treatment of ‘witches’ through the ages, both real and fictional.
Opening the show with a stripped-back rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon, we quickly shift into a spot-on impression of Bette Midler as Winifred in Disney’s Hocus Pocus. The juxtaposition of the two performances – haunting and camp – neatly sum up the show’s cadence. Morgan delivers a quick-witted chronological lecture on witches from Arthurian legend all the way up to Marie Laveau, explaining their cultural significance and the misogynistic taint they’ve been dealt through history. Of course, this is cabaret, so all of this is interwoven with witty jokes and pop music interludes (Lady Gaga, The Greatest Showman, and Cyndi Lauper). The songs are performed perfectly, the humour is clever, and the pace is fast.
If anything, the speed of the show means we miss the occasional joke or fact. The banter between Morgan and Moores flies back and forth (some of the biggest laughs are earned from the droll sidekick) and the speedy use of meme-laden projected slides is relentless. It does keep the energy pumped, though, and the songs provide a little let-up. And Morgan is a hell of a singer. As well as hilarious impressions (her Hocus Pocus trio of Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker is uncanny), her vocals are on-point and powerful.
The show then cleverly culminates in an explicitly political statement. Trump tweets and statistics about his repeated use of the phrase ‘witch hunt’ are projected onto the screen (again, at break-neck speed) and Morgan’s message becomes even clearer. Witch trials are often dismissed as myth or the stuff of meaningless tales, but it’s important to remember how significant they were (and are) and that hundreds of thousands of women were systematically killed – essentially because of their gender. So when the world’s most powerful white man repeatedly self-victimises with his use of the phrase, it’s crucial to realise the manipulative (or ignorant) nature of it.
Morgan achieves another hit with this year’s offering. It manages to be quick-witted, entertaining, and visually fun, while delivering an important feminist manifesto. The political agenda is, in fact, even bolder and more upfront than Morgan’s previous shows, and she remains, rightfully, unapologetic about it.