Rona Munro's The Last Witch tells the story of the last woman to be executed for witchcraft in the British Isles. It is based on the historical account of Janet Horne, the alleged witch of Dornoch in the Scottish Highlands, who was executed in 1727.
The play was commissioned by Edinburgh International Festival and co-produced by the Festival and the Traverse Theatre Company. It opened at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, on 23 August 2009.
The play's action takes place in Dornoch, northern Scotland, in 1727. In the claustrophobic heat of summer, a woman’s apparent ability to manipulate the power of land and sea stirs suspicion. Janet Horne can cure beasts, call the wind and charm fish out of the sea. Or can she? Men hold all the power in this society and any woman with an independent mind is cruelly shamed. Horne’s refusal to deny the charge of witchcraft puts her in dangerous opposition to the new sheriff, Captain David Ross. Her defiance threatens not only her own life but also that of her daughter Helen.
Munro depicts the wildness of the Scottish highlands and the grinding poverty that accompanies life in such an unforgiving landscape. The play also walks a line of ambiguity between whether Janet actually practised witchcraft or if she was merely the victim of trenchant misogyny.
The Edinburgh premiere was directed by Dominic Hill and designed by Naomi Wilkinson. It was performed by Kathryn Howden (as Janet Horne), Hannah Donaldson, George Anton, Vicki Liddelle, Neil McKinven, Andy Clark, Ryan Fletcher and Simon Smith.