Review The Crucible, Gielgud Theatre, London by James Ellis

Photo credits: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Lyndsey Turner’s version of Arthur Miller’s masterpiece of 20th century theatre will not be underestimated. There is a striking use of lighting thanks to the talents of Tim Lutkin, who wants to expose these characters at every angle. The stage is often alight, a large screen above the stage mimics a Rothko abstract. Perhaps the most showy thrill of this hot shot show is the water feature. Rain treacles down the front of the stage, no doubt the first few rows were in the splash zone. Its gimmicky and it’s real meaning may be contested, but I have much praise for this production.

The soft ambient drones thanks to the work of Tintying Dong and Christopher Shutt are the ever present vain throughout. The girls of the village offer further effective vocalising passages to add to the exquisite broth, another acoustic thrill. The atmosphere is heightened thanks to this and the music of Caroline Shaw also adds to this remarkable story. The actors at the start remind us of the context of the play’s creation: Miller mirroring the Salem Witch Trials with the ongoing attack from Andrew McCarthy in the ever increasing anxiety about communism in American life. Miller weaves a fine tale, facts mingle with dynamite theatre, there is never any disrespect here. The show is therefore set in the time it was written to hammer this truth home.

The Crucible remains a fine example of how not to be in a community. Its is the indulging of gossip, conjecture and hatred for the fellow man that sees these events play out. Faith and delusion intermingle and the threat of the devil and his effect upon people. Yet who has seen what? Are they really servicing the devil himself? The play skillfully used old timey English language without being too archaic, we hear and understand these characters clearly.

A remarkable cast, stun in a list of names as long as the village. Too many to say, but Nick Fletcher does well as the annoying Reverend Samuel Parris who potter’s about lost in his own pomposity. Milly Alcock is a resounding Abigail, one of the girls accused of dancing naked in the woods. Many Irish and English accent float around though Milly’s give wonderful across the pond pipes and her convulsions were immeasurably disturbing. Brian Gleeson has a lap of honour as John Proctor. This saintly figure, who fights for his wife Elizabeth aside his problematic role with Abigial.

Elizabeth is Caitlin FitzGerald, the tall, blonde presence who was hardly involved in any of the witch implied antics. I love her resilience in the face of terror. Giles Corey was a grand Karl Johnson, who get good laughs and offers great insight. Reverend John Hale is Fisayo Akinade, the serious and effective role who on the quest for truth, finds horror instead, as many girls and women are tried for witchcraft with the sentence being hanging. My favourite role was Matthew Marsh as Deputy Governor Danforth. I was awash with goose bumps for the tense trial scene and Marsh is a jammy voiced, highly intimidating figure and simply gloria in the role. Also how the quest for truth, though still extremely biased. I’ll say sorry now for not going into all the great acting in this show.

Just go and see it.

The Crucible is at the Gielgud Theatre till 2 Sept 2023.

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