A legendary Lancashire tale comes to the stage as The Marco Players present ‘Sabbat’ – a retelling of the Pendle Witches story from the perspective of the Magistrate, Roger Nowell, who tried them.

The story imagines the impact on Nowell and his wife Judith, who is pregnant with a much longed for child. A friend, Alice Nutter, is attending to Judith in her confinement, but when she is accused of being a witch by a young tearaway, Jennet Device, dark rumours begin to surface.

“It’s a very real and human story,” said Chelsea Blundell-Nelson who plays Judith, “and it’s very easy to understand the dramatic effect the accusation has on Roger and Judith.”

Mark Weatherall plays Roger Nowell, the magistrate charged with investigating the case.

“I came across the play as an English teacher,” he says, “and thought it would make a perfect autumn play for us. There’s something very real about the events it portrays that allows you to imagine how those characters must have understood what was happening around them.”

The society approached well-known local director Simon Mott for the project.

“Simon is well known in dramatic circles for having a strong vision of how he wants a play presented,” says Mark, “so we felt we were in good hands.”

Richard Shannon’s play was written for The Dukes Theatre in Lancaster in 2012 – the 400th anniversary of the event which saw 10 people hanged for witchcraft and became perhaps the most notorious case in England, featuring as it did accusations of each other from two local families.

“Ultimately it was the testimony of young Jennet Device, against her own mother and brother, which secured the conviction,” say director Simon,"but so many were drawn into this hidden world of curses and demons its effects were almost certainly felt personally by the Nowell family – and this play presents that dramatisation brilliantly."

He adds:" It’s only a small cast, but they manage to bring alive the real fear that people of the period had of that sense of unknown and uncontrollable power. I’m fortunate to have found four strong actors who could bring the vision I had to life – and who can all sing as well!”

Society stalwart Carolyn Haslam plays the maligned Alice Nutter, to whom there is a statue in Roughlee near Nelson, and the cast is completed by newcomer Catherine Cropper.

“It’s a fantastic part to play,” says Catherine who joins the society for the first time, “Jennet obviously believes herself that she has these strange powers, but it is her accusations that hold sway with the Magistrate – with devastating effects.”

“Interestingly, although Jennet was the accuser in the case and not on trial,” said Simon, “She was herself tried for witchcraft some years later.”

‘Sabbat’ runs from Wednesday, September 21 to September 24 at 7.30 at Stepping Stones Nursery, Chorley Old Road, Bolton, BL1 6AH. Tickets available from 01204 294401 or 07756 510462 or via www.themarcoplayers.net