The Crucible - Review

Continuing its unofficial role as the Arthur Miller Repertory Company the New Venture Theatre once again dipped into the canon of the great American playwright and chose what is undoubtedly his finest work.

This powerful play is about the notorious witchcraft trials in Salem in 1692, brought about through the hysteria created by adolescent girls. It tells of greed and superstition and the bearing of false witness against neighbours, with those charged with witchcraft saving them selves from hanging by denouncing innocent people. It’s interesting to recall that the play was written in 1953 at the time of the hearings of the Un-American Activities Committee where accused actors and writers were encouraged to make similar denunciations.

To do justice to such a great play first-rate acting was needed and luckily this production was blessed with such from every member of the cast. Director Mark Wilson kept the audience on the edge of their seats right from the start. He devised an opening atmospheric prologue in which, through an eerie mime, the girls were seen dancing in the woods and taking part in some form of ritual. The tension that this created was maintained throughout the play until it reached a highly charged and emotional climax.

The main protagonists in the action are John Proctor, a bluff and honest farmer and his former servant, Abigail Williams, who being in love with him accuses his wife of witchcraft and sets in motion the tragic chain of events. As Proctor, Andy Costello was superb and along with Tessa Pointing, as his wife, created a most moving and heart-wrenching scene towards the end of the play. Frances Tongue excelled as Abigail managing, as she did, to show the two sides to her character –- the manipulator of the girls through aggressive bullying and of the judges by acting the sweet innocent. She was moving in her declaration of love for Proctor and would have been far more so if she had not dropped her voice so low that at times she was inaudible.

With such a feast of high quality performances there is a temptation to mention them all but by doing that the review would fill up the whole Newsletter! However I would mention just a few more. Eileen Miller’s Rebecca Nurse was a study in honesty and quiet dignity and Serena Brand captured well the torment of Mary Warren, torn between telling the truth and giving into Abigail’s threats. There was a truly chilling performance from Nik Hedges as Danforth -– a religious zealot with the inflexible heart of a bureaucrat.

It is now several days since I saw this production but its effect has not left me. Every time I think about it I still feel its power and am moved by the emotion that it generated. Congratulations to all involved.

Barrie Jerram