Douglas Rintoul brings Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ to the Opera House, Manchester this week.
Set during the 1692 Salem witch trials, The Crucible has a chilling message that will always be contemporary. In a post ‘Trump’ age and with the arrival of ‘fake news’, stories of political upheaval, trial by media and gossip are still as relevant today as they always have been. As the directors notes indicate, with Miller’s 17th Century Salem being a place rife with anxiety, a community in the midst of great change and flux, where societal structures are weakening, this play seems more relevant than it has ever been.
There are some great performances in this production, with Charlie Condue (Reverend Hale) and Victoria Yeates (Elizabeth Proctor) shining out within the ensemble. Eoin Slattery (John Proctor) does have some good moments, but he does lack the intensity that needs to be shown by Proctor. Proctor is such a captivating and tormented character and this does seem a little lost at times. I didn’t get the rather tame portrayal of Abigail Williams, played by Lucy Keirl and the hysteria and confusion shown by the girls verges on the comedy at times. But perhaps this is Rintoul’s point, that society had become so confused and taken in, that these girls were believed no matter how ridiculous their stories might have been. If this is what Rintoul is trying to show, it perhaps needed more clarity for the audience.
Anouk Schiltz’s set design is stark and claustrophobic and with the eerie music, the subtle hum and special effects throughout, an intense feeling is created and the ending does leave you breathless and desperate for relief that never comes. But the point of Arthur Miller’s story is that the girls are lying. However, the darkness of the production indicates the presence of the devil. Are the audience members intended to be seduced by the girls lies as the community of Salem was? Perhaps, but this seems confused and a little obscure.
The audience size was disappointing and it was a shame that not many more people had come to see this classic story. However, the last time I saw the Crucible in Manchester was at The Royal Exchange and this was played out to packed audiences. Perhaps the polite response from the audience said it all at the end. Despite this, it is nice to catch this political revival again on the stage and I didn’t leave entirely disappointed.
By Dean Thomas-Lowde for Canal St Online