by Arthur Miller.
York Theatre Royal St Leonard’s Place YO1 7HD To 28 May 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 28 May 2.30pm & 7.30pm.
Captioned 28 May 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 24 May.
Runs 3hr One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 May.
Close-up Crucible gives attention to characters around the main action.
This season there’s an ensemble company in York’s main-house and studio, with the larger space converted into the Round. Well, up to a point. More a traverse, the stalls boarded over as a playing-space, the curve of a couple of rows and the Dress Circle on one side, opposite a straight bank of seats where the stage used to be.
The other sides have only a couple of theatre boxes, and are also used for Dawn Allsopp’s set in Arthur Miller’s large-scale account of the 1692 Salem witch trials. It’s a play grateful for the open, bare boards of the public third act. And the opening act’s bedroom, where young Betty Parris lies feverish, gains because, though small, the action there is urgent and busy.
The space serves too for the Proctor’s second act farm home – again a place of urgency with plentiful action. It’s the final act’s prison setting, focusing intensely on John Proctor’s decision to live by signing his name to a lie or be executed with integrity, where the space seems too diffuse.
Proctor’s dilemma – like Eddie Carbone’s misjudgement to name names in A View from the Bridge – was linked to the McCarthyite anti-communist trials happening around Miller’s 1953 play. But closer parallels are apparent – remember ‘recovered memory syndrome’? Or children snatched from parents by social services in non-existent child abuse cases?
York’s ensemble company have some success at their first outing. Juliet Forster’s direction includes apt use of the space – Helen Macfarlane’s honest but impressionable Mary Warren staggering confusedly round the stage under a psychological onslaught led by Abigail Williams, and Lucille Sharp’s Abigail, prim-seeming at first but turning commandingly to threats when the power she’s gained is in danger – though Forster leaves Abigail seated at the side, apparently out of the action, for a long stretch of act one.
Other strengths include Michael Roberts’ grave (if sometimes slightly monotone) Danforth, a judge disorientated by this unconventional case, the simple honesty of Pamela Buchner’s maligned Rebecca, and Neil Salvage who places farmer Giles Corey’s amateur lawyer status within the context of a farmer’s bluff frankness.
Judge Hathorne: Martin Barrass.
John Proctor: Stephen Billington.
Rebecca Nurse: Pamela Buchner.
Ann Putnam/Sarah Good: Andrina Carroll.
Tituba: Louise Eyo.
Thomas Putnam: Gordon Kane.
Elizabeth Proctor: Helen Kay.
Susanna Walcott: Katharina Leipfinger.
Mercy Lewis: Lois Mackie.
Mary Warren: Helen Macfarlane.
Herrick: Alasdair McLaughlin.
Francis Nurse: Ted Pleasance.
Reverend Hale: Jonathan Race.
Danforth: Michael Roberts.
Giles Corey: Neil Salvage.
Cheever: Daniel Sawka.
Abigail Williams: Lucille Sharp.
Reverend Parris: Simeon Truby.
Betty Parris: Maddie Drury/Beth Molloy/Charlotte Wood.
Director: Juliet Forster.
Designer: Dawn Allsopp.
Lighting: Christopher Hirst.
Sound: Clement Rawling.
Composer: Christopher Maadin.
Voice coach: Susan Stern.
Dialect/Accent coach: Yvonne Morley.
Costume: Catherine Chapman.