‘Abigail, I pray you feel the weight of truth upon you.’
The Crucible is a play for our times. Nearly seventy years have passed since its first performance, and over three centuries stand between the spectator and the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials depicted in the play; yet Arthur Miller’s masterpiece still hits home. A meditation on the exploitation of fear and the distortion of truth to further one’s personal aims, The Crucible remains profoundly relevant in our world of post-truth politics.
Much like in our current political world, there’s a lot of shouting involved in director Cesca Echlin’s take on Miller’s play. It was a risky move done successfully. The dichotomy created between the frantic dialogue and the austere aesthetics of the setting and the character’s clothes brings out the sense of hysteria of the situation. The intimate environment of the Pilch ties the spectator into the violence and distress of the characters’ situation, which proves to be a claustrophobic, yet ultimately moving experience.
The acting was startingly good with many cast members convincingly played multiple roles. The performances successfully capture the personal nature of the drama, set in an isolated community where every character seems to be at odds with his fellow man. Gavin Fleming’s interpretation of Reverend Parris was genius. He inhabits the character down to the very raptor-like movement of his fingers and the hunch of his back. His frantic outbursts perfectly brought out the pathetic nature of a man whose sole concern is his own reputation. Reverend Parris was as detestable as he should have been.
A special mention must also be given to Maddy Page, whose performance as Elizabeth Proctor beautifully captured how below the character’s stern and seemingly unforgiving attitude lies a woman profoundly hurt by the husband whom she loves. Alex Mark’s interpretation of John Proctor too brought out the character’s duality: Proctor was at once a man of his time, occasionally abusive and almost always sexist, as well as a rare promise of moral integrity in a world crippled by mass-hysteria. Through the two actors’ compelling performance, the Proctor’s own domestic tragedy emerges as a deeply-moving instance of pathos in the midst of a provincial world gone mad.
However, I am not sure I was entirely convinced by the use of music at the end of scenes. It seemed to interrupt the tension created by the silence of a finished scene, only to introduce an element of almost clichéd melodrama.
The fact that my only criticism lies in the pedantic discussion of sound technicalities should be a testament to how much I did in fact adore the rendition of the play. It was an intimate, though-provoking and at times even surprisingly funny performance, that convincingly brought to life a play gone stale, for many of us, after tedious analysis during our school days.