Writer: Arthur Miller
Director: Douglas Rintoul
Designer: Anouk Schiltz
Reviewer: Fraser MacDonald
Telling the tale of the Salem Witch Trials, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a key text for high school students with good reason. With its broader themes as applicable in today’s world as in the times of the Trials, it is rightly regarded as a classic.
Miller’s ability to capture the mood of this infamous moment in history is legendary. From the very outset, he assaults his audience with the hysteria of the upper bedroom of Rev. Parris (Cornelius Clarke), whose his daughter lays limp. With whisperings of witchcraft in the air, the self-serving Minister finds his congregation and his village at war with one another. As the hysteria sweeps across the village, the piece comes to a suspenseful climax as those who have secrets to hide must reveal them to save those they love.
Simply set, the stripped bare staging allows its audience to focus solely on the drama in front of them. There is, therefore, little give for the pace of the piece to drop; effective yet unforgiving to those that utilise it. As the piece progresses, we are exposed to elongated silences which – far from dropping the pace – adds to the prolonged suspense of the drama.
Where the written word may have incredible power, however, the cast of this particular production fail to convey the true beauty and grit of the magnificent prose. Where John Proctor (Eoin Slattery), his wife Elizabeth (Victoria Yeates) and Abigail Williams (Lucy Keirl), the true protagonists in this piece, are excellent, the supporting roles do not offer their full support to the key players, allowing them to deliver the gut-punches of the work. For example, Rev. Hale, played by Charlie Condou, plays a key role in this tale, yet his impact is hardly felt on stage.
The audio accompaniment in this particular production feels unnecessary. Effects of carts pulling up outside, contradict its setting, which employs artistic licence for its audience to imagine farmhouses from small clumps of grass and wooden boards. Musical accompaniment is similarly out of place, though less offensive to the ear.
Where it would be impossible to ruin a script as strong as Miller’s, Douglas Rintoul’s production does not manage to capture its audience the way others have. Nonetheless, by its own sheer strength, The Crucible stands as a solid piece of drama which will grip and leave its mark.
Runs until 17 June 2017 | Image: Alessia Chinazzo