The transformed Old Vic with its all round seating and dark stone pillars and walls is the perfect, cauldron like setting for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The dramatisation of the Salem which hunt serves so well as a parable to mass persecution and hysteria that resonates from the McCarthy persecution of communists to the reactionary responses to recent terrorists attacks and the politics of immigration.
Directed by Yael Farber, this production is filled with muted tones and dark grey garments, supplemented by the constant low hum of a soundtrack that ratchet up the tension. The aesthetic emphasises the middle aged backwardness of the mindless and the arbitrary manner of the persecution. There is no let up with its relentless drive of the plot and argument and remain an absolute joy to watch even if it runs at three and half hours. It is an emotional roller-coaster ride that marks out all the moments of deep personal tenderness and the harsh, injustice of the dubious legal arguments.
Natalie Gavin stands out of this superb cast who defines each of their view points so well. Gavin as the house helper Mary Warren who switched from being the accuser to witness helping the defence captures the folly of youth so beautifully and her helplessness when finally trapped in an impossible situation. Jack Ellis as Deputy Governor Danforth has the steely self belief to rule and Richard Armitage is exhausting himself to fight this unwinnable scenario as the protagonist John Proctor. And the female characters all posses a sense of otherworldliness that gives credibility to the persecution.
Breathless and emotional, visually stunningly beautiful with fantastic acting, this is an outstanding production of a classic and important play.
Photo by Johan Persson