A beguiling, sinister devil, a dishevelled, abused old woman seeking revenge and a hapless farmer's son juggling two wives make up this bleak yet entertaining Jacobean drama.
Based on the true story of Elizabeth Sawyer, an unfortunate old woman accused of being a witch in 17th century England, the play is spellbinding in its reflection of how women were treated in this witchcraft obsessed era.
SC artistic director Gregory Doran has adapted and directs the play penned by Thomas Dekker, John Ford, William Rowley et al and what emerges is a series of tragedies peppered with elements of humour.
The play opens with a troubled farmer's son Frank Thorney (a superb Ian Bonar) trying and failing to do the right thing by two women.
He commits to his first love but then, fearing he will lose his inheritance, marries another.
It is clear his desperate attempts to hide them from each other will seal his and their fates in the end.
RSC veteran Eileen Atkins is convincing as the abused, haggard and lonely old Mother Sawyer, who emerges slowly through a forest of sticks, which sit like rows of broomsticks, at the back of the stage.
She laments her misfortune before being beaten across the back with her own firewood by taunting neighbour Banks.
She wishes she was a real witch in order to seek revenge on the community which has shunned her and her wish is granted with the appearance of the devil who appears in a dog like form.
And it is here where the action really comes alive. Jay Simpson is outstanding as devil dog Tom, who appears in little more than a codpiece and wagging tail, with enlarged pointed ears, twisted horns and protruding spine.
His movement across the stage as a four legged beast is incredible as is his ability to appear both sinister and cute at different times.
At one moment, he is stalking behind the old woman, hiding between the sticks to commit acts of cruelty and mischief making and then he is at the centre of the action, playing a fiddle.
Morris dancing yokel Cuddy Banks (a strong performance by Dafydd Llyr Thomas) provides much amusement when he befriends the devil dog, oblivious to his sinister powers.
Here, we see his morris troop bewitched, performing a riotous routine, ending with a manly Sir Arthur Clarington camply prancing around with a red ribbon.
But the play seemed to plod a little in the second half and, while the main action provided plenty of edge-of-the-seat moments, the dialogue was at times a little too long.
The production also marks the RSC debut of Oliver Dench, grandson of the late RSC stalwart Jeffery Dench, who showed real promise as a hapless morris dancer and stern officer. I expect we will be seeing a lot more of him in the future.
The play runs until November 29.