Selladoor Productions and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, in association with Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg bring Arthur Miller’s classic play The Crucible to Manchester’s Opera House this week.
First performed in 1953 The Crucible used the Salem witch trials as a metaphor for the rife anti-communism which was gripping the United States, led by the House Un-American Activities Committee who saw any kind of leftist thinking as a challenge to American civilised society. Miller transports us to 17th century Salem, a farming town in Massachusetts which is rapidly gripped by witchcraft rumours, as the paranoia peaks amidst a colossal wave of accusation and fear, innocent woman are led to the gallows, confess to being a witch or hang, the choice is yours. We see neighbour turn on neighbour in a bid to save themselves as a frenzied hysteria takes hold, as lies snowball and cause unimaginable and catastrophic damage.
Director Douglas Rintoul keeps this production clear and uncluttered allowing for the themes to speak loudly so there is no confusion about the absurdity and madness we are witnessing. Anouk Schit’s set is effective and wonderfully versatile, a large three sided steel with wooden panels which reconfigure and transform allowing for scenes to change smoothly whilst not distracting from the powerful message being delivered on stage. Chris Davy’s dramatic and bold lightening compliments the set beautifully.
Miller stated in his autobiography “I can almost tell what the political situation in a country is when the play is suddenly a hit there – it is either a warning of tyranny on the way or a reminder of tyranny just past” proving that The Crucible is just as relevant today as it was the very day it was created.
The strong cast deliver some superb performances, Charlie Condou makes for an excellent Reverend Hale, calm and fair he brings serenity to the absurd situations he is witness too, aghast at the frenzy of hysteria whipping up the townsfolk. In contrast to Condou’s fair and forgiving Hale is the self-serving and spiteful Reverend Parris, arrogant and ghastly, Cornelius Clarke delivers the role convincingly.
As the horror of what we see unfolding is realised it is the relationship between John Proctor (Eoin Slattery) and his wife Elizabeth (Victoria Yeates) that grips our emotions, falsely accused and wholly innocent their arrests proving that this witch-hunt is past the point of no return. Both give very strong performances, their relationship although difficult is believable and honest, both do absolute justice to Millers script and add warmth and emotion.
The Crucible is a powerful and poignant piece of theatre, it is often said that the civilisation of a society can be measured on how it treats its weakest members, wholly apt in Salem, 1950’s American and glaringly so across the Western world today. Hugely relevant, and immensely important, The Crucible delivers a message modern audiences must hear.
On at the Opera House until Saturday 13th May http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-crucible/opera-house-manchester/