Theatre Review: Intensely Relevant

review

The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller; produced by The Old Vic: seen June 30, 2014

The good thing about Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is that it is highly relevant in any time period. The bad thing about Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is also that it is highly relevant in any time period.

What is on the surface a story about the Salem witch trials ends up so much more. A tale intended as a commentary on the McCarthy hearings, it stands in also as a commentary on the paranoia of group-think and what people will do, and what they will give up, to save themselves and to save their loved ones.

In the Old Vic’s production, Richard Armitage takes on the main role of Proctor. The program states that this is Armitage’s dream role, and it shows in every move. He amps up the intensity to almost an 11, showing his slow descent into realizing how much power the girls claiming witchcraft, and the church, truly have. He acts his heart out, and is wonderful as a result.

Richard Armitage and Samantha Colley. Photo by Johan Persson
Richard Armitage and Samantha Colley. Photo by Johan Persson

The production plays up the sexual angle, giving Armitage and the young Abigail (Samantha Colley) a fiercely erotic scene when he first confronts her about the charges. As they (eventually) kiss heatedly not five feet away from the (supposedly) comatose Betty, she starts to writhe in a way that echoes masturbation. However, Armitage plays the last scene – where he admits to the adultery he committed with the young Abigail (Samantha Colley) – as though the admittance was more to save his wife than it actually happening, leaving the relationship between the two somewhat ambiguous.

Despite the press that this would be a new take, I didn’t really feel there was anything new in this interpretation. The play is a chilling take on the power religion had (and still has) on America, and that angle could’ve been played up a bit more considering what’s been happening in America lately. Staging it in the round is a genius move, however. As much as I respect Miller as a playwright, he does tend to, well, plod on at some points, and the direction gives the show continuous movement as a result. The plot is fast paced, and your eye is constantly moving.

Yes, The Crucible is intense already by the subject matter and by Miller’s excellent script. But this production shows that this tale of corruption, power, and mania is much more intense because it so easily can happen today as it did back in the 1600s. If you are at all in London, check it out: you won’t regret it.

The Crucible runs until September 13 at The Old Vic. For more information, visit The Old Vic’s website