Women, Beware The Devil Reviews

Women, Beware The Devil has opened at the Almeida Theatre in London, and reviews are coming in from the critics.

Rupert Goold (Dear England, Tammy Faye, Patriots) directs this new play by Sunday Times Playwriting Award-winner Lulu Raczka (Antigone, Nothing).

This deadly new play of treachery and trickery is centred on Lady Elizabeth, for whom nothing is more important than protecting her family’s legacy and their ancestral home. But when that comes under threat, she elicits the help of Agnes, a young servant suspected of witchcraft. But Agnes has dark dreams of her own for this house…

The cast includes Leo Bill (The Duchess of Malfi; Posh), Carly-Sophia Davies (Spring Awakening; The Eternal Daughter), Aurora Dawson-Hunte (Queens; Cherry Orchard) Ioanna Kimbook (The Duchess of Malfi; Bitter Wheat), Nathan Laryea (Spring Awakening; Tartuffe), Lydia Leonard (Little Eyolf; Wolf Hall), Alison Oliver (Best Interest; Conversations with Friends) and Lola Shalam.

Joining Goold in the creative team are set design by Miriam Buether, costume design by Evie Gurney, lighting design by Tim Lutkin, sound design and music composition by Adam Cork, and casting by Amy Ball.

Women, Beware the Devil runs at the Almeida Theatre until 25 March 2023.

Check out reviews below from the Times, Evening Standard and more.

More reviews to follow


"A gleefully camp contemplation of the nature of evil"

"Lulu Raczka’s Almeida debut manages to subvert so many things that it’s difficult to know where to start with a straightforward description of it. "

"At its glibbest, it’s a sort of feminist version of ‘Blackadder’. At its most philosophical, it’s a contemplation of the idea of ‘evil’ as a necessary thing, synonymous with change. The story is an almost Pintereque account of a struggle to control a house – definite shades of ‘The Servant’ – but with more jokes, blood and witches."

"Raczka’s play is both enjoyably daft and disarmingly deep. It very much leans into the campness of the Jacobean revenge thriller – the name is an obvious allusion to Middleton’s ‘Women Beware Women’ – but is frequently overtly comic, with copious knowing fourth-wall-breaking and a magnificently silly performance from Bill as Edward, the beef-obsessed, responsibility-resistant product of generations of inbreeding."

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
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The Evening Standard

"A wild, slippery ride"

"The shape-shifting audacity of the play makes it exciting to watch, if ultimately baffling"

"Well, I didn’t have a folk-horror tale about witchcraft and the English Civil War on my bingo card for London theatre in 2023, but here we are."

"Lulu Raczka’s ferociously bold, deliberately anachronistic play brings the devil on stage, horns and all (and reading an Evening Standard on his first appearance). It uses events and attitudes from the 1640s to throw light on modern-day inequalities in wealth and gender, and on how revolutions devour themselves. At least, I think it does. The show – in a wry and raucous production by Rupert Goold, featuring a fine central performance from Lydia Leonard - is as baffling as it is intriguing. Those who like nice, neat theatre should give this a swerve. I was bewitched, though I’m not entirely sure why."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Stage

"Vaguely satirical romp"

"Nebulous diabolical drama is frustratingly muddled but sumptuously staged"

"Lulu Raczka’s new play sounded so enticing – a murky brew of witchcraft, politics and period drama – but it turns out that it is more likely to induce indigestion than intoxication. Oozing lurid imagery, it has a certain appealing, audacious swagger, thanks in no small part to a sumptuous production by Rupert Goold. But it is also a frustrating mess, its notions about class, gender and power barely conceived, let alone developed."

"Goold’s staging hurls itself into the brimstone and hellfire hokum of it all with gleeful elan, and visually it is sinfully gorgeous. Miriam Buether’s set, lit with Hammer Horror gloomy glamour by Tim Lutkin, features chessboard parquet, leaded windows and gleaming silver and mahogany."

"... tonally, Raczka’s writing is haywire, muddling modern vernacular with more ornate cod-historical language, deadpan jokes draining the action of every last drop of tension. Her characters are striking archetypes, but they have less depth than an impish Holbein woodcut."

Paul Vale, The Stage
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The Arts Desk

"Bewitching, up to a point"

"Rising star Lulu Raczka offers an ambitious if erratic tale of witchcraft and civil war"

"Rather than keenly felt drama, Raczka and Goold for the most part focus on humour and social critique... The result is thematically ambitious, certainly funny, always highly entertaining, but also a little erratic. What it lacks is a grounding in atmosphere. Despite all the talk of witchcraft and superstition, the play isn't as diabolical as it might have been"

"Miriam Buether’s set is elegant and functional, a bare, panelled room in which appealing laden dining tables are wheeled in from the wings and the much-maligned marital bed rises from the floor. Lighting and costume create some evocative moments, some with gorgeous intimations of Vermeer. Goold maintains a heady pace and a hearty wink throughout."

Demetrios Matheou, The Arts Desk
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The Guardian

"Bizarre comedy horror is like Bridgerton on acid"

"Directed by Rupert Goold, it comes with his characteristically clean, televisual glamour: Evie Gurney’s period costumes are stunning. Miriam Buether’s set has a gorgeous black gothic canvas at the back and with scenes of such sumptuousness at the front the mise-en-scène resembles a Dutch painting. The performances are superb"

"The plot is abstruse. It could be comedy or horror. It looks at times like Bridgerton on acid. It might be a pastiche of the period drama itself, or one big metaphor (but for what?). It wobbles somewhere between a surreal episode of Blackadder, a Peter Greenaway film and a Monty Python sketch. "

"Raczka is a bold and brilliant playwright whose previous work shows risk-taking. Maybe this is a risk too far. If it is a failure, it is a heroic one, performing the rare feat of leaving this critic impressed, exasperated but temporarily speechless. What just happened?"

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Times

"I feel sorry for the cast of this unholy mess"

"The plotting is so erratic that I began to wonder if I had fallen asleep during key scenes."

"Miriam Buether’s set is luscious, creating the illusion that we’re wandering down some checkerboard-floor gallery in Hatfield House. Tim Lutkin’s lighting evokes the flickering of a thousand candles. But as with another of the Almeida’s recent duds, Daddy: A Melodrama.. a grand design can’t disguise the emptiness at the core. "

Clive Davis, The Times
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i News

"Alison Oliver beguiles as a woman accused of witchcraft"

" A wild and unwieldly new work from Lulu Raczka" "The price of ambition is, of course, the occasional misfire"

"A central tenet of Raczka’s strange and slippery piece: in a societal structure in which women have almost no agency – where witchfinders prowl the land and where female bodies are scrutinised for when they bleed and when they don’t – it is the lowest-ranking woman who ends up calling the shots in this pyramid of power games."

Fiona Mountford, i News
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The Telegraph

"A bewildering brew of half-baked ideas"

"Rupert Goold's Almeida production promises temptation and terror, but it is ultimately hard to care about"

"It's not hard to see why director Rupert Goold was drawn to Raczka’s darkly irreverent portrait of shadowy, infernal intrigue, set in an old manor against the backdrop of growing civil strife. He partly made his name dancing with the devil, excelling at anatomising human overreach amid the putatively outmoded yet still transfixing context of damnation: Paradise Lost, Doctor Faustus, Macbeth and more besides. I’d love to add this work to that corpus of achievement but I found myself ultimately more bothered and bewildered than bewitched by a play which starts with tremendous dazzle but slowly goes up in smoke."

"Raczka heaps ideas into the bubbling cauldron and we duly get the advertised horrors. Still, the devil is in the detail and that’s lacking, the second half a melee of plotting and talking. It’s hard, finally, to care as the power struggle intensifies. A case of buyer, beware."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Financial Times

"A drama of witchcraft and desire in ‘Women, Beware the Devil’"

"The drama that ensues is an unclassifiable one: part folk horror, part Blackadder-ish comedy, part Faustian morality fable."

"Raczka’s play is subtle and knowing in its explorations of the ways women in patriarchal societies are forced to manipulate the men around them to get what they want... But it’s a little unsatisfying, too, because it attempts to fit so many themes into its span, ones that you would need a TV series to fully unpack."

"Still, there are some fascinating ideas beating at this play’s black heart, and they are well served by this slick, sumptuous production. Rupert Goold’s direction is swift and ruthless, while Miriam Buether’s design is as ingenious as a Jacobean sideboard..."

Alice Saville, The Financial Times
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"Director Rupert Goold and co have a field day with Lulu Raczka’s elusive new Jacobean folk horror"

"The trouble is that though Lulu Raczka’s new play about evil and change has many glinting moments, it lacks a driving force."

"Trying to wrest substance from this – and solemn speeches plead with an audience to look for substance – is like catching a lizard by its tail and being left holding the skin. But what a skin. Evie Gurney’s costumes are enticingly, bewitchingly textured. Designer Miriam Buether brilliantly makes the stage a mobile mixture: a world on the brink of change."

Susannah Clapp,
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The Sunday Times

"The director Rupert Goold and the set designer Miriam Buether throw all their talents at this cod-medieval story about witch-hunting during the Civil War, but nothing can disguise the muddle and flimsiness of Lulu Raczka’s play. It’s Blackadder without the jokes. Pretentious rot."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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📷 Main photo: Women, Beware The Devil. Photo Marc Brenner

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