The Crucible is a 1953 play by the American playwright, Arthur Miller that is a fictionalised retelling of the tragic events of 1692’s Salem Witch Trials using real names from history. With Olivier Award-winner Lyndsey Turner as the director, The National Theatre as the producer, stage design by Es Devlin, and many talented and experienced names part of the cast, The Crucible is once again back on stage.
The Crucible isn’t just a retelling of history but an allegory to the repetition of human mistakes over time. At the time it was written, the 17th century was being compared to the 50s’ political landscape with the alleged communists being persecuted without enough evidence in the US. However, sadly, watching or reading the play makes you see that many themes in the play still apply to today’s society; women tearing down other women because of rivalry, betrayal to avoid ostracization by society, corrupted judicial system, the importance of reputation, the evil done in the name of good. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Having read the play and being a fan of it, I was excited but nervous about watching this stage adaptation. However, I was not let down by this production. In the traditional sense of a protagonist (a good lead character) and an antagonist (the villain), John Proctor, the upright citizen with a hamartia of a past affair with Abigail Willaims is our hero and Abigail who Miller describes as ‘an endless capacity for dissembling’ is the antagonist. However, one can argue that in the sense of a ‘main character’ Abigail is the one. This production also puts Abigail and the other young girls who have an important role as the accusers at the forefront with its staging and promotional material. Abigail also stands out among the other girls with her costume being a different colour than the rest on stage and her different posture on the poster, highlighting her as the key character of this production. In most scenes, the girls are visible either seated or standing upstage if they are not in the scene. The hovering presence of the girls both by physical presence and the chanting sounds creates a haunting atmosphere that makes the experience of watching this play even more chilling and thrilling.
Abigail is performed by the amazing Milly Alcock who is known as the young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen of House of the Dragon. She shares the stage with many other impressive names including Brian Gleeson as John Proctor, Heartstopper’s Fisayo Akinade as Reverend John Hale, Nick Fletcher as Reverend Parris and many more. I would have to say that I was the most impressed by the performances of Nia Towle as Marry Warren and Nadine Higgin as Tituba. While Tituba does not have a lot of stage time, Higgin left a remaining impression on me with her performance. Towle’s performance in Act 3 where Mary Warren plays a key role was powerful. Additionally, the performances of Gleeson and Caitlin Fitzgerald as Elizabeth Proctor left me in tears, while Karl Johnson’s portrayal of Giles Corey was hilarious and gave us the much-needed occasional comedic relief throughout the play.
Even with a 3-hour run, this play passed by so quickly and I cannot recommend you enough to watch it. Catch The Crucible at Gielgud Theatre at West End until 2 September. Book your tickets here.