Set in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, The Crucible follows the tale of a town crippled by hysteria and paranoia as a bitter young girl’s cries of witchcraft set a harrowing chain of events in motion.
Written by Arthur Miller in 1953, a time when the United States was gripped with the ‘red hunt’ – a political movement that burst through society in an attempt to root out communism – the play uses the Salem witch trials of 1692 as an allegory. As a young girl is taken ill, the town begins to suspect witchcraft is at work and suspicion and paranoia spreads like wildfire.
Act one did feel slightly disjointed and it was only towards the end of the second act that the story began to gain pace and momentum – this was frustrating as it’s such an intriguing story, but takes a while to get going. The rest of the play flows well and the plot thickens in the third and final act. With minimalist staging, all the focus is directed towards the actors. The transition between acts was smooth and props were used very effectively.
Charlie Condou plays the honourable Reverend Hale who is called upon to aid in the investigation, and gives an outstanding performance. As an outsider, Hale’s position in the play is similar to the audience’s and offers a voice of reason. Other standout performances also included Eoin Slattery as John Proctor, Jonathan Tafler as Judge Danforth and special mention must also go to Augustina Seymour, who played Mary Warren superbly. Her comedic timing was brilliant and offered relief from what is a heavy and harrowing account of history.
The fervent need of humanity to point the finger and blame is particularly poignant in today’s society and proves just how timeless The Crucible is. The cast succeeded in creating an atmosphere of hopelessness amid fierce religious persecution – some scenes were disturbing and uncomfortable to watch, which is credit to the cast, crew and directorial guidance of Douglas Rintoul.
Image credit: Alessia Chinazzo