Writer: Arthur Miller
Director: Geraldine Alexander
Reviewer: Taylor Simmons
The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s 1953 play set in Salem Massachusetts, tells the story of the 1692 Salem Witch trials. Embedded in its original 17th-century setting, the realities of Puritan society are realised in Storyhouse’s latest production and, with it, the atmosphere of a claustrophobic paranoid fractured community.
Geraldine Alexander’s vision is powerful and intense. Its dark and chilling retelling grips the audience to the edge of their seats as the drama unfolds before them. As an onlooker observing the hysteria, we can only watch the injustice with stunned silence which is what makes it all the more compelling.
As this production is performed in repertory, it can sometimes be the case that the casting isn’t a ‘glove-like jigsaw fit’ but not in the case of this production. There is not a single weak performance. In fact, it is the cohesive strength of the cast that makes this production all the more powerful. From Eleanor Sutton’s cold and brazen interpretation of Abigail Williams to Matthew Flynn’s earthy and honourable interpretation of John Proctor, their connection is palpable making their history all the more tangible.
Yet it’s some of the less central roles that are the most powerful. Gay Soper’s interpretation of Rebecca Nurse as moral, trusted and compassionate and Simeon Truby’s comical yet principled interpretation of Giles Corey were highlights. Reverend Hale can often be a difficult character to convey as he must journey from being the ‘outsider’ in this community integral to setting the events in motion to a character the audience can most identify with. New graduate Freddy Elletson is commanding in this role, encouraging the audience to his side with ease and integrity.
Yet the standout performance is from that of Leigh Quinn as Mary Warren. Her vulnerable pitiful portrayal of Mary as someone easily led is juxtaposed with her stentorian possessed outbursts; Quinn is nothing short of astonishing. She has the ability to bring the audience along with her through every step of her journey .
The cohesion of the production is brought together by the extremely functional set design by Jess Curtis and the evocative lighting design by Chris Davey. The 17th-century setting is suggested by a simple yet functional design allowing the whole story to be told with one central space and backdrop. The dark floor to ceiling and wooden walls create the claustrophobic setting which is intensified all the more by the open bright ‘outside’ that is revealed each time the doors are opened. As an audience, you can’t help but feel trapped with the characters in the situation they find themselves in.
It is by no means a night of lighthearted theatre, as was Miller’s aim, but a piece of theatre you will leave charged and affected by. If you are looking for a night of thought-provoking powerful theatre with a message that bears relevance to today’s society, get to the Storyhouse quickly.
Runs in Rep until Saturday 7 July 2018 | Image: Contributed