Reviewed by Catherine Martin
Set in the Puritan town of Salem in 1692, The Crucible is Miller’s potent play about witchcraft is as relevant as it ever was.
With modern day witch hunts rife – political scandals, public media shaming – it’s easy to draw parallels between Miller’s portrayal of tyrannical life in small town America and the modern day. In fact, Miller wrote the play as a social commentary upon the political happenings in 1950s America, namely the prosecution of alleged communists.
The set by Anouk Schiltz is dark and minimal, with a constant haze of dry ice enveloping the stage. The perfect metaphor for the barren, oppressive life endured by the Puritans who migrated to America from Europe in the 17th Century.
Beyond the usual metaphors, there is an underlying sense of fierce feminism in this play. It begins with talk of five young girls dancing naked in the woods, following the lead of the wild eyed Barbadian slave, Tituba.
There’s a sense the men in Salem are fearful not only of witchcraft, but of strong, young independent women, indeed the whole scandal is sparked by Jon Proctor’s (Eoin Slattery) lust for 17-year-old Abigail Williams, played by Lucy Keirl. Keirl portrays Abigail as much more than an infatuated teenager and Slattery as John Proctor is passionate in his portrayal of a powerful character haunted by his own mistake.
Charlie Condou’s portrayal of Reverend Hale is superb. He begins the play cold and detached and becomes anguished by the insurmountable evidence proving the innocence of those Salem folk condemned of witchcraft.
We are availed of some comic relief on the form of David Delve as the moral but mischievous Farmer, Giles Corey.
There is an underlying theme of hysteria; riots in surrounding villages, neighbours accusing each other of witchcraft and devil worship. This is a stark contrast with the excessively strict social order of Puritanism.
This atmospheric staging of this true theatre classic is chilling, passionate and frightening in its relevance.
Tickets cost from £13.75 to £36.75 (plus £4 transaction fee).
The Crucible is at the Opera House in Manchester from 8-13 May 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/operahouse or call the box office on 0844 871 3018.
Opera House, 3 Quay Street, Manchester, M3 3HP | 0844 871 3018