Writer: Arthur Miller
Director: Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie
Reviewer: David Robinson
Arthur Miller’s ground-breaking and formative work is still seen by many as a seminal piece on the seventeenth-century witch trials in and around Salem Massachusetts. The setting may well be the USA in 1692 but Miller’s influence was the McCarthy trials of the 1950’s. This co-production between The Curve and De Montfort University Drama and Performing Arts students places the characters in modern dress and is economically and sharply directed by Siobhán Cannon- Brownlie. Al Parkinson’s stark set and David Hateley’s lighting design complement the simplicity of direction effortlessly and the imaginative use of the studio’s considerable height is aptly and cleverly utilized, as the villagers watch on as the drama unfolds.
Hidden agendas and dark desires can lead to extreme behaviour, particularly in this God-fearing rural and close-knit community. Witch hunts are being reported regularly in neighbouring towns and when John Proctor breaks off an affair with young Abigail Williams, she and some other girls spy an opportunity for revenge and to allow Proctor’s wife Elizabeth to be accused of witchcraft. The Reverend Hale is summoned to attempt to decipher the truth and rid the girls of any demonic influence.
Lewis Wolverson finds depth and a growing sympathy for Proctor in his well-judged portrayal of Hale; Rainsford Boi as Proctor is broody and gives us a thoughtful and measured performance with little fuss, ably supported by the accomplished Eleanor Page as very watchable Elizabeth. Naana Boaten as Abigail allows just the right balance of steeliness and naïvety to mix for her portrayal that is both intelligent and well observed.
The downside to a stark and very economical production is that it can put a considerable responsibility on the acting company. In the first half, the students are to be commended for very much being up to the task. The majority of the second half is based in and around the courthouse: here the focus is lost with a great deal of shuffling and pacing not assisting the attention required and sadly the result is the lack of a much-needed courthouse cauldron. The heat of The Crucible is tempered at a time when it should be coming nicely to the boil. That being said Cannon- Brownlie stages a relevant and pointed production and underlines, if needed, why The Crucible is a central piece of work in the canon of American drama.
The experience for the students to work alongside The Curve must be an invaluable treat for those edging towards a career in the theatre and no doubt being involved in a classic such as The Crucible has warmed them up for whatever theatrical adventures lie ahead for them.
Runs Until 5 May 2018 | Image: Mark Barnett