There is something unknowable about young Maggie Wall. Perhaps you would call it spiritual. You hear it in the lullaby handed down through the generations, the words like an incantation taking root within her. Or it’s the magic of the illicit Latin prayer she sings, a romantic alternative to songless Presbyterian Perthshire.
Such music sets her apart, as does the complexion she inherited from her late father, a man also ostracised from his neighbours in superstitious times. That this uncommonly beautiful girl on the brink of womanhood clings close to her protective mother, never venturing out alone, adds another level of mystery. You can see why the 17th-century locals might have been intrigued.
What is harder to see is how any of this could constitute witchcraft. In his one-woman play, Martin McCormick purposely presents nothing about Maggie that could even be misconstrued as supernatural, unless a dreamy disposition and a poetic turn of phrase count as sorcery. What he does offer is a vision of a fearful, misogynistic and class-ridden society in which an accusation of witchcraft is a tool of control.
His story is a speculation based on a curious landmark just outside the village of Dunning, 10 miles from Perth. Known as the Maggie Wall, this pile of stones is said to be the grave of a woman burned as a witch in 1657, although the historical record is poor. Far more likely than Maggie consorting with the devil, McCormick suggests, is a sexual assault by the son of a laird in an era of Reformation intolerance. There is even less reason to suspect this poor woman of witchcraft than there is the attention-seeking girls in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible or the fantasising Janet Horne in Rona Munro’s The Last Witch.
The playwright is not the first to lay claim to this territory, but he does so with a vivid eye and an earthy Scots idiom that holds the attention. This is especially the case in Amy Liptrott’s studio production in which an excellent Blythe Jandoo captures the bewilderment of a woman who is as morally certain as she is naive. That she is such a lifeforce makes her helplessness all the more sad.
• At Pitlochry Festival theatre until 29 September.