by Arthur Miller.
Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7D To 24 October 2015.
Mon-Sat 7pm except 14 Oct 5pm no evening performance 12, 13, 19 Oct Mat Thu, Sat & 14, 18 Oct 2pm.
Audio-described 10 Oct 2pm.
BSL Signed 20 Oct.
Captioned 15 Oct 7pm.
Post-show Discussion 22 Oct 7pm.
Runs 3hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 October.
Excitingly intelligent production.
Caroline Steinbeis’s production celebrates the birth of Arthur Miller, and the Royal Exchange as a place of big adventures and intimate moments. And best of all is that the theatre’s epic potential is used to deepen the experience of Miller’s play.
Whether it’s the girls of 1692 Salem leaping across the bare space at the start, off to the midnight revels that stoke the flaring witchcraft allegations, or the echoing offstage cries bouncing from the Exchange’s great hall, this is a production alive to the live experience.
There are down-sides, like the generalised last act cliché of a stage gradually covering in water. And a lack of seats, which gives energy but takes away from the domestic reality of the Proctors’ marriage.
Yet this Crucible is one of the theatre’s most memorable productions, suggesting this generation of directors comes equipped to use the space with the ambition proclaimed, but not consistently realised, in the its early days. Actors, designers, directors – and audiences – have come a long way since 1976.
A strange innocence inhabits the girls who will cry witch; maybe Rachel Redford’s Abigail has a hint of firmness, but that might be reading into the performance. Whatever psychological forces are unleashed come largely from the pressures and fear in an authoritarian society. Which is identified through the male characters’ modern-dress.
Paul Brightwell’s Thomas Putnam surely drives a 4×4, David Collings’ Francis Nurse will always attract polite respect without topping anyone’s invitation-list.
He won’t worry; not with Marjorie Yates’ Rebecca around. Yates, as always, attracts maximum sympathy with minimum visible effort. Her Rebecca never asserts but is always on hand to help.
In a sense her opposite, Peter Guinness’s Deputy Governor Danforth, stands-out in his thin red robe, wandering the stage, spectacles in hand, ever-seeking the truth but always bound by the law, mixing reason and blind justice in a quietly authoritative performance.
Tim Steed makes this almost as much Reverend Hale’s tragedy as it is the Proctors’; his growing understanding bringing him increased scepticism and the frustration of being powerless. It’s a fine performance, indicative of this passionately intelligent production.
Tituba: Sarah Amankwah.
Thomas Putnam: Paul Brightwell.
Ezekiel Cheever: Christopher Chilton.
Francis Nurse: David Collings.
Susanna Walcot: Grace Cordell.
Giles Corey: Sam Cox.
Marshall George Herrick: Alastair Gillies.
Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth: Peter Guinness.
Betty Parris: Leah Haile.
Elizabeth Proctor: Matti Houghton.
Reverend Samuel Parris: Stephen Kennedy.
Marcy Lewis: Pepter Lunkuse.
John Proctor: Jonjo O’Neill.
Ann Putnam/Sarah Good/Martha Corey: Mary Jo Randle.
Abigail Williams: Rachel Redford.
Judge Hathorne: Roy Sampson.
Reverend John Hale: Tim Steed.
Rebecca Nurse: Marjorie Yates.
Mary Warren: Ria Zmiteowicz.
Director: Caroline Steinbeis.
Designer: Max Jones.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: Richard Hammarton.
Movement: Liz Ranken.
Assistant director: Kate Colgrave Pope.