In what seems to have become a theme, a shamefully clueless theme, I once again went to the theatre with little prior knowledge of the source material. When it comes to Miller, I’ve only read A View from the Bridge, when it comes to the Crucible, I only had a vague idea of Salem witch trial and McCartyist allegory.
The Crucible is epic, in the true sense of the word, and I don’t just mean long, though it stretches over three and a half hours, which is no mean feat. The story’s premise is simple, a woman scorned sees and opportunity and ceases it. In fact the motivation felt almost too simple and it took me a while to accept that in the first half of the play. However as things moved beyond any individual’s intention and build to a self propelling avalanche far beyond what any of its originators expected, or were able to stop, even of they wished it, this no longer mattered. Perhaps it even strengthened the horror of the proceedings. From man made to something far beyond that, something, dare we say it, supernatural. For nothing else could explain how the 1:45 minutes long second half flew by so quickly. The first part dragged for me a bit towards the end, little plot helped along by powerful light and sound effects. I have to mention the use of sound, which was incredible. Something akin to the breath of a sleeping dragon (I swear, this is not an intentional Hobbit reference) was always present and helped build a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere. In the second half everything came together for me (my friend felt the opposite, interestingly) in an emotionally impactful way.
Some people were clearly there for Richard Armitage aka the sexy dwarf king from the Hobbit, and he was excellent, when I eventually got used to his voice (it’s deep, like seriously deep) but this felt like an ensemble piece to me, withs stand out performances by Anna Madeley’s Elizabeth Proctor and newcomer Samantha Colley as Abigail Williams.
This summer seems to be all about Miller as up the road from the Old Vic, a startlingly modern version of A View from the Bridge played earlier in the summer.
It’s the first time I’ve seen it on stage, though I did study it in school. It’s amazing how some things stick to your mind, like ‘walking wavy’ and the ‘give me my name’ speech at the end. There were school kids in the audience and hearing their reaction was wonderful, wish we could have seen it performed when I was studying it.
As for the play itself, it was visually stunning, but lacked heart for me, and in this Old v Young, the Crucible wins it for me.