by Arthur Miller
Old Vic Theatre The Cut SE1 8NB To 13 September 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 14 Aug.
Captioned 26 July 2.30pm, 12 Aug.
Runs 3hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7628. (£2.50 transaction fee – does not apply to supporters of The Old Vic).
Review: Carole Woddis 7 July.
A play for all seasons, handsomely revived.
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible never fails to resonate. His troubling, occasionally misogynistic but essentially majestic 1953 masterpiece once again stalks the halls of history and the witchcraft hysteria that gripped New England – and England itself – in the 17th century.
Pouncing on this period as a suitable parallel for the story burning in Miller’s soul at the time – US Senator McCarthy’s right-wing witch-hunt of anything that walked, talked or smelt of communism – Miller poured extraordinary passion and complexity into The Crucible to show how collective hysteria, fed by superstition and petty personal grievance can turn into uncontrollable forest fires of condemnation.
Betrayal – naming names – is the cornerstone of Miller’s drama, just as it was with HUAC – McCarthy’s committee, demanding individuals name names. It doesn’t take much to see how such a scenario can feed into any given issue today where a public atmosphere of persecution and demonization loses sight of reason and logic. The Salem trials remain a magnificent metaphor – a thunderclap that refuses to let us off the hook of individual conscience.
Yael Farber’s production – and praise to Kevin Spacey for remembering and reviving Miller’s seminal piece – is blessed by designer Soutra Gilmour’s clever, grey-curtained drapes giving the Old Vic’s current in-the-round setting the feel of an old court-house with the audience as jurors.
To that, Farber adds shadowy lighting and a soundscape of an underlying drone. We are never far from a sense of cataclysm as the little girls of Salem led by Samantha Colley’s knowing, older than usual Abigail Williams, egged on by the Puritan fathers and preachers, find the Devil’s work in every crevasse of their village society.
Sex and religion, forever at loggerheads, Farber never lets up on the pressure created by their Manichean battle, her ensemble cast in dark robes and headscarves moving like wraiths in darkness, or at fever pitch.
As the guilt-ridden reluctant hero, John Proctor, Richard Armitage cuts an imposing if vocally already strained figure whilst Anna Madeley’s Elizabeth Proctor quietly imposes a terrific sense of unbending moral rectitude, aided by veteran actors Ann Firbank and William Gaunt.
Reverend Parris: Michael Thomas.
Betty Parris: Marama Corlett.
Tituba: Sarah Niles.
Abigail Williams: Samantha Colley.
Susanna Walcott: Daisy Waterstone.
Mrs Ann Putnam: Rebecca Saire.
Thomas Putnam: Harry Attwell.
Mercy Lewis: Zara White.
Mary Warren: Natalie Gavin.
John Proctor: Richard Armitage.
Rebecca Nurse: Ann Firbank.
Giles Corey: William Gaunt.
Reverend John Hale: Adrian Schiller.
Elizabeth Proctor: Anna Madeley.
Francis Nurse: Neil Salvage.
Ezekiel Cheever: Alan Vicary.
Marshal Herrick: Tom Peters.
Judge Hathorne: Christopher Godwin.
Voice of Martha Corey: Catherine Hammond.
Deputy Governor Danforth: Jack Ellis.
Sarah Good: Paddy Nevin.
Hopkins: Matt Weyland.
Ensemble: Hannah Hutch, Lauren Lyle.
Director: Yaël Farber.
Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting: Tim Lutkin.
Music and Sound: Richard Hammarton.
Movement: Imogen Knight.
Voice/Dialect coach: Michaela Kennen.
Fight Director: Kevin McCurdy.
Assistant director: Mark Maughan.
First performance of this production of The Crucible at the Old Vic London 21 June 2014.