Featured theatre performance /// The Crucible @ The Old Vic

the crucible

Putting your own troubles to paper and spitting the venom of offence into creating has always been one of the best ways of therapy as well as a source of inspiration for a lot of great works of art. Arthur Miller, who witnessed US government blacklisting communists, did exactly that and thus created one of the best plays in the world literature – the ever-relevant ‘The Crucible’. It was staged several times since its writing in the middle of XX century, and The London Old Vic’s modern adaptation by Yael Farber is indeed an exceptional affair.

‘The Crucible’ is set in XVII century amidst Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts. A group of young girls is discovered dancing in the woods, but is it ordinary dancing? They instantly become suspected of trafficking with Satan and as the rumours of witchcraft spread, the town goes wild. To avoid punishment the girls go on to accuse other people of unholy actions and thus are considered nearly saint among the town inhabitants for pointing out Devil’s servants. Against the background of witch craziness, a personal drama is unfolding as John Proctor (Richard Armitage) can’t find his inner peace after being unfaithful to his wife Elizabeth (Anna Madeley). Together and at the same time apart is very much about this couple. John’s one-time-mistress Abigail Williams (Samantha Colley) is one of the holy accusers and can’t get him out of her head. And the plot for personal revenge at the expense of mass paranoia leads to tragic consequences while desperation drives poor people near to madness. 

The play and the way it’s presented by the actors holds viewers in a powerful grip and doesn’t let go till the very end. Richard’s John Proctor is both – strong and vulnerable. He tortures himself from the inside because of his own sin and finds it hard to get over this single mistake of his life. John’s a fierce and noble warrior when it comes to proving the truth, fighting for human rights and a soft, tender family man. Richard Armitage lives through his character and puts so much feeling, so much of himself into it that his is a fabulous performance to watch. Proud Abigail, so beautifully portrayed by Samantha Colley, comes across as mischief from the very start. She’s as striking as she’s dangerous. Sensing her power over people and John in particular, she’s not afraid to go as far as it’s necessary to avenge her offended heart. Modest and plain Elizabeth cuts a striking figure of a loyal, though somewhat cold, spouse. She’s ready to accept her fate, but is also tortured by the knowledge of John’s infidelity. Anna Madeley manages to show a woman humble, but at the same time with a steel pivot inside – the one who’s strong, not really good at showing her emotions, but loving her husband dearly. Another tragic figure that is hard to miss is Reverend John Hale (Adrian Schiller) whose character undergoes a drastic transformation as he himself gets tired of the blindness and the stubbornness of the court and slides from the powerful into the despaired.

Minimalistic stage decorations, solemn music and semi-dark hall set the tone just right during the course of the whole performance. The atmosphere is kept mysterious and ominous so that we know that it’s a very dark affair we’re witnessing. You’ll be feeling together with the characters and living through their tragedies together with them. You’ll be shocked by outrageous injustice and inability to oppose the mighty tandem of the church and the court. And you’ll surely be moved by how nobly and bravely the characters accept death, which roots from false accusations, and don’t blacken their name even for the sake of saving their lives.

Delivering an expressive and sometimes exaggerated performance as contrary to visual minimalism, ‘The Crucible’ touches upon personal and global issues, which can be related to at all times. Despite bringing about very serious issues and not a single trait of lightness, the play, which spins more than three hours, passes so quickly that you barely notice it: the intensity of the whole piece is captivating. ‘The Crucible’ is brilliant, overwhelmingly emotional and heart-breaking – not to be missed.

You can get The Crucible from Digital Theatre website

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