Arthur Miller’s classic American play The Crucible is a cornerstone of American drama, heavy with potent themes and symbolism that remain as relevant today as when it was written 60 years ago.
Although still a relatively young group, Tell Tale Theatre’s previous two productions – 1984, and Users, based on the characters of Trainspotting – had put them in good stead to tackle a play that had always been on the wish list. And the community company tackled it with gusto, creating an air of desperate menace and a chilling tension within the confines of the specially constructed stage space in the Static Gallery.
The story of an American town overtaken by manic accusations of witchcraft, although based on true stories from the 1690s it served as a powerful allegory for McCarthy’s anti-Communist crusade, sweeping the country at the time of writing. Miller and his wife Marilyn Monroe were both investigated.
At the heart of the tale is stoic John Proctor (Jack Spencer), an ordinary farmer whose past indiscretions come back to haunt him when his young lover Abigail Williams (Leanne Jones) attempts to win him back by denouncing his wife Elizabeth (Christine Heaney) a witch.
These three central performances are (no pun intended) spellbinding, and the supporting cast impresses too. Donna Ray Coleman as timid Mary Warren and Sophie O’Shea in the small role of Tituba stand out especially, with the whole ensemble working well together.
The use of black and white film projections to relay scenes in the woods added an inventive visual touch, and the pivotal courtroom scene was conveyed well through a simple scaffold.
At longer than two and a half hours excluding the interval the play is quite lengthy and at times it does require a little effort to stay focused; but on the whole, and especially in the second act, the performances and evocative, absorbing atmosphere keep the audience hooked until the very end.
Picture by Brian Roberts