Review: HEXENHAMMER, Soho Theatre

A fascinating look at how misogyny has changed over the centuries

By: Feb. 09, 2024
Review: HEXENHAMMER, Soho Theatre

Review: HEXENHAMMER, Soho Theatre

“Chaos is exclusively female”

Written by and starring Sidsel Rostrup and Suzy Kohane and directed by Catherine Alexander, Hexenhammer takes a look at the book of the same name, translated into English as “The Hammer of Witches,” the 15th-century guide to witch hunting.

Rostrup and Kohane take on the roles of the authors of Hexenhammer, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, throwing on monk’s robes and putting on German accents. But the show isn’t just a look into the past. Rostrup and Kohane have also incorporated “verbatim text found on online incel forums,” making for a show that blurs the lines between history and the present. 

Hexenhammer begins with Rostrup and Kohane as women, stripped down to nothing but tank tops and pants as they talk about how hot they are and rank the men they date on a scale from 1 to 10. After a few minutes of joking around, they don monk’s robes, becoming Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. They use slides to introduce themselves as historic figures and the Hexenhammer but it falls a little flat, particularly with some lighting issues.  

The pair then put on a series of short scenes of the monks coming up with Hexenhammer. These scenes are incredibly fast but also hilarious, particularly moments in which Kramer and Sprenger are taking walks in the monastery’s garden, mumbling nonsense prayers and fighting Brother Ignatius who is spreading lies about the Hexenhammer.

One particular highlight if Sprenger praying to God, beginning with ridiculous bits like “Every righteously swole God” as Kramer struggles to complete a single pullup in the background. The acting is incredibly overdramatic but works perfectly for the play, as Rostrup and Kohane put on ridiculous accents and facial expressions that make for bigger laughs from the audience. 

After being expelled from the monastery for his ideas on witchcraft and obsession with one woman in particular, Helena, Kramer decides to go to England for a book tour of Hexenhammer, which has gotten awareness on the “Intellectual Dark Press.” Sprenger joins him to do the admin for the tour, and so the two begin their journey. While traveling, the two pass the time by asking “Am I the Asshole?,” a great reference to Reddit that starts to allow the modern to bleed into the 15th century. 

While speaking to an audience about his book, Kramer is a terrible mix of Trump, Andrew Tate and Elon Musk, playing inspirational music in the background as he makes hit “hot takes” and attacks women. The first line of his speech, “Sons of Adam, women of ribs,” gives you a bit of an idea of what the rest of the monologue was like. 

Throughout the show, there are also sequences in which Kramer and Sprenger take the “red pill,” a reference to The Matrix that has come to represent waking up from what society wants you to think, AKA becoming an incel. The red pill is like a drug to the pair and there are shown visions of Hell where women run the world, penises are stolen by harpies and climate change is real. These moments in Hell are quite surreal and tend to not be as effective or funny as the earlier scenes, particularly a strange bit in which the pair are playing a video game and discussing virginity. 

Towards the end of Hexenhammer, the show begins to look more modern, with the two performers wearing clothes like tank tops, hoodies and snapback caps and speaking with more modern slang. The show also takes on a much more serious tone, with Sprenger going from being the apprentice to the master incel, taking matters into his own hands. He has a terrifying monologue about his hatred for women with ends with the chilling line, “You deserve to be annihilated and I will give it to you.”

Hexenhammer is a fascinating look at how misogyny has changed over the centuries with the same feelings of anger and fear remaining. Rostrup and Kohan do a fantastic job of portraying Kramer and Sprenger in an overdramatic fashion, giving the audience something to laugh at before the dark realisation of just how relatable what they are saying is to the modern time. 

Hexenhammer ran on 7 February at Soho Theatre.