Writer: Arthur Miller
Director: Douglas Rintoul
Reviewer: Andrea Allen
Written as a stark allegory reflecting the tide of betrayal, fear and deceit he saw amid the governmental communist-hunt of 1950s America. Arthur Miller’s telling of the Salem Witch Trials will ever be, in Miller’s own words, “a warning of tyranny on the way or a reminder of tyranny just past”, and Douglas Rintoul’s devastatingly intense production is no exception.
Despite the dishearteningly timely nature of the subject matter, the decision to commute to a modern setting is resisted. The retention of Puritanical sparseness sharpens the sense of restriction and discomfort which riddles The Crucible to its core. Anouk Schiltz’ rustic, minimal set is the perfect complement to the joyless, barren wasteland which the characters occupy, while in the background, looming wooden frameworks offer a foreboding shadow of the gallows. Voices echo into the abyss giving a sense of apocalyptic desolation while a faint drone hums consistently in the closing scenes, low enough to avoid detracting focus but present enough to generate a shaking sense of unease. A constant haze of dry ice cloaks the stage, mirroring the shady and progressively darker moral scene as recognisable today as the day it was first written.
Eoin Slattery’s John Proctor oozes passion and inner conflict, a controlled, honed, empathetic performance that has even Miller aficionados rooting fruitlessly for a positive resolution. Charlie Condou’s Reverend Hale flawlessly tracks the descent from cool detachment to anguished yet unheard acknowledgment of fraud and exploitation. Cornelius Clarke is sickeningly sanctimonious as Reverend Parris while David Delve provides sole comic relief as Giles Corey, making his final plight all the more sombre and dispiriting. Human empathy, forgiveness and love are contrasted with rigid, puritanical legislature, and just how close to home it feels reflects how terrifyingly relevant the play continues to be.
In his Director’s Note, Rintoul highlights The Crucible’s parallels with the current political climate, pertinently comparing the Judge’s court claim that “a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it” to Sean Spicer’s recent, and significantly less articulate “…get with the programme…or leave”. The injustice, herd-mentality, and corruption that infuses The Crucible is as present now as it was sixty-four years ago. An unashamedly political revival, and in wake of current turbulence internationally, the timing couldn’t be better.
Runs until Saturday 13 May, 2017 | Image: Alessia Chinazzo