Review: The Crucible

SO WHAT IS in a name? Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is certainly a name most of us will know or recognise. As a GCSE set text, most of us will remember sitting in the classroom deconstructing every sentence in a vain attempt to come to grips with what is a complex and gritty subject.

The metaphorical, literal and allegorical allusions within the play to human baseness, the Salem witch hunts and the McCarthyism of the 1950s, need to be portrayed sensitively and yet we can’t leave with simply a feeling of satisfaction. We need to be hit by the greed and selfishness of the girls’ self preserving lies, and struck by the speed that the whole community jumps on the bandwagon. >>>In essence we need to leave amazed at how a community could be so blind, and shamed by the savagery of human nature. So how to put on a play which so many will remember with such varying amounts of pleasure?

Emma Butler tells us in her note that she wished to make us recognise ourselves and our nature in the portrayal of the characters on stage. Her direction then has been precise and to the mark. While we may not leave directly relating ourselves to one of the characters we have just seen on stage, I would defy anyone to leave without a deep impression of the wrongs of that society and without making comparisons in their head to the society around them.

The realism she wished to portray has certainly been achieved and the build of tension and energy over the course of the play conveys wonderfully the absurdity of the situation. The intensity of performances and direction kept the audience involved throughout, and therefore all credit must go to Emma for such an impressive coordination of such a large cast.

Other aspects of the play only added to the overall success. While the lighting wasn’t perfect, it was simple, effective and well suited to the style of the performance. The set worked well and Emma Matthews has good cause to be proud of her production team.

Unfortunately a few performances did let this show down. This did not, thankfully, distract from what was otherwise a first rate cast. William Fisher’s Proctor carried the plot very well, his mix of deep emotion with ‘raw man’, as one member of the audience called it, certainly left us in no doubt that his name was not going to be used for evil.

Stevie Martin’s Abigail portrayed all the violence, revenge, bitterness and strength one could wish for in such a misguided girl, brilliantly showing what coercive leadership of a few can do to so many.

Special mention must also go to Lucy Cornell for a wonderfully fragile Elizabeth, Callum Cheatle for a pivotal Hale which really allowed us to believe in the goodness of mankind, Sarah Trotter for a frantic Mary Warren, and Sean McCaffrey for a truly hand-wringing Parris.

So what is in a name? Well BTC’s name is once again synonymous with a superb evening of good entertainment.

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