This is going to be the review of both the text of “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller and the Old Vic production of 2014, which was shown in Cineplex on July 2, 2017.
Everybody has heard of Salem witch trials, one of the most well known cases of mass hysteria in Colonial America between 1692 and 1693, that resulted in trials and executions of over a dozen of people accused of witchcraft and consorting with devil. Arthur Miller wrote his version of the events based on the evidence, adding some fictional elements and changes to the story. He wrote the play as an allegory for the contemporary hysteria and accusations surrounding communism propaganda.
That was in 1953.
Needless to say, that this play is as relevant as ever today, and “witch hunt” is still used as a popular rhetoric in politics.
Old Vic Production
I watched the play first and then read the text, but I adored it even more for it. The text is not dense at all, and reads fairly easily, in spite of an old type font in my copy. Arthur Miller breaks the third person narrative by historical references and his own thoughts, which works really well and adds his perspective on the events and characters.
I thought it was a relatively new production and was surprised to learn that it was originally staged in 2014 at Old Vic theatre in London, captured by Digital Theatre, then released digitally in 2015. Can’t believe it took Cineplex 2 years to bring it to their viewers in Canada!
Old Vic’s production of “The Crucible” was directed by Yaël Farber. It was the second play directed by her that I saw this year. The first one being Yerma, and I could definitely tell that both plays shared the same dark and gruesome feel.
Yaël is a multiple award-winning director and playwright. Her production of Mies Julie won a string of international awards at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival, was named one of the Top Ten Productions of 2012 by The New York Times, and Top Five Productions of 2012 by The Guardian.
Before “The Crucible”, I had never seen Richard Armitage on stage (unsurprising really, as he turned on stage after 12 years gap), although I, naturally, saw him in The Hobbit trilogy and loved his acting. His performance as John Proctor is absolutely stunning. Delivered by Richard in his deep, gruff voice, Proctor’s words piece you to the core as you see this strong-willed and honest farmer struggle with fanatics and ill-wishers, only to eventually succumb to his own guilt and politics.
The stage decorations are minimal; the attention is focused on stage with the audience sitting around it. The stage is dark and the smell of incense is obvious (sadly, not in the cinema broadcast). Yaël once again managed to stun me with her direction and heightened sensory experience. Similar to Yerma, “The Crucible” is not just a visual experience, but a bodily experience as well. Something that you let course through your whole body.
The production is very true to the text, almost word to word. If you have an opportunity to watch this recording from Old Vic – please, do! It will make an impression on you, I swear.
In this interview to The Guardian, Richard mentioned that he would like to work with Yaël Farber again, which would freaking fantastic. His portrayal of John Proctor will always have a special place in my heart.
To be fair, I was not familiar with any other cast member before watching the play, but it would not be fair to praise only Richard for his acting, when Abigail Williams and other girls in the play delivered a no less stunning performance. Abigail was played by an emerging actress, Samantha Colley. She was so defiant, so cunning, and that the same time so naive, that I still can’t decide if I admire her or despise her more.
Definitely a must watch!
Plot/script: 4 stars
Production: 5 stars
Overall: 4.5 stars