The Welkin

The Welkin

National Theatre · 15 JAN - 23 MAY

One life in the hands of 12 women.

Lyn Gardner avatar
10 January 2020  ·  Follow on Stagedoor
“What theatrical sorcery is this? Lucy Kirkwood’s latest, set in rural Suffolk in 1759, is likely to cast a spell as it tells the story of Sally Poppy. Sally is sentenced to hang for murder but says that she is pregnant and so must escape the noose. Twelve housewives must decide her fate. A largely all female cast includes Maxine Peake, Ria Zmitrowicz, Nadia Albina and Cecilia Noble. James Macdonald directs. I’m in. So’s my black cat.”


Rural Suffolk, 1759. As the country waits for Halley’s comet, Sally Poppy is sentenced to hang for a heinous murder.

When she claims to be pregnant, a jury of 12 matrons are taken from their housework to decide whether she’s telling the truth, or simply trying to escape the noose.

With only midwife Lizzy Luke prepared to defend the girl, and a mob baying for blood outside, the matrons wrestle with their new authority, and the devil in their midst.

Critic reviews

Maxine Peake struggles to make the voice of reason heard in feminist history play

The Arts Desk

A visceral experience

Broadway World

Twelve bickering, bantering women must determine an accused murderer’s pregnancy claim in this admirable drama

The Guardian

Maxine Peake stars in Lucy Kirkwood's headily ambitious and richly textured history play

The Stage

A brilliant, brave, bold and intelligent three hours


Ria Zmitrowicz burns up the stage in Lucy Kirkwood’s genre-defying period drama

Time Out

Lucy Kirkwood's messy but significant work has a gutsy audacity

Evening Standard

So many distinctive female voices, so beautifully designed, but a little bit like childbirth

The Telegraph

Too many characters compete for our attention

The Times

A confident play full of shining moments

Lyn Gardner for Stagedoor

Date & time

Until 23 May
Wed 15 Jan - Sat 23 May, 2.15pm & 7.30pm


National Theatre
South Bank SE1 9PX London, UK · Get Directions
out of 5 stars
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