The Crucible

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

First performed back in 1953, the themes raised in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible continue to speak true today, illustrated to gripping and dramatic effect in this bold and atmospheric production from director Geraldine Alexander.

When Arthur Miller wrote the play back in the 1950’s he used the Salem witch trials as a metaphor for the rife anti-communism which was gripping the United States at the time. Liberal thinking was seen as a challenge to American society and authorities acted quickly to stamp it out, something we see ever-present in the political climate of today.

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The Crucible transports us to 1692, where a small farming town has been gripped by a frenzied paranoia as witchcraft rumours swiftly circulate and fear takes hold. As accusations rise innocent women and the men who defend them are led to the gallows, their only hope of surviving, confessing the unthinkable. Catastrophic events unfold as a frenzied and fearful hysteria grips the town.

Jess Curtis’ atmospheric set & costume design is clear and uncluttered, inventive as well as interesting, allowing the themes to speak loudly as the madness unfolds. The trust staging is used to great effect, as an audience you feel at the centre of the action, the intensity and claustrophobic nature of the piece is striking and in your face, from the hysterical girls to the heartbreak of the Proctors, we feel every ounce of emotion. Chris Davey’s lighting design is exceptional, casting shafts of light on proceedings, highlighting the oppression of the innocents accompanied perfectly by Simon Slater’s chilling sound design.

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The cast deliver Miller’s words with Northern voices giving an authentic and relatable feel. The ensemble are impressively strong, coming together in the courtroom scene to dramatic effect. Freddy Elletson makes for an impressive Reverend Hale, attempting to bring calmness to the madness, devout and fair he becomes increasingly disturbed by the injustice and absurdity he it witness to.

Matthew Flynn and Mary Doherty as John and Elizabeth Proctor add poignant emotion to the piece. Their arrests proving this witch hunt has gone way past the point of no return. Leigh Quinn shines as mary Warren, troubled, tormented and ripe for dangerous manipulation from Eleanor Sutton’s determined and defiant Abigail Williams.

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Director Geraldine Alexander’s production succeeds entirely in delivering a powerful warning of how the anxiety and fear of the masses can be taken advantage of in the pursuit of personal power to the most devastating effect. The powers that be using exclusion, lies, fear and isolation to maintain the status quo of the community, sound familiar?

Gripping, emotive theatre, impressively staged and powerfully delivered. On at the StoryHouse until Saturday 7th July, tickets available here.

The Crucible

Crucible

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.

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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.

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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.

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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/