Picture courtesy of Jo Allan PR / The Old Vic Theatre (photographer: Johan Persson)

[Review] – The Crucible

Silence, only a murmuring in a foreign language can be heard. Rhythmic, low, hypnotizing.
It comes closer, closer, closer. The darkness brightens as a young, black woman enters, holding a small cauldron in her hands, still murmuring the words in an unknown language. She crosses the stage in the same rhythm as her singing.
Soon she is accompanied by more and more people, each and every one heading for one of the chairs placed on the stage. Around 20 actors, around 20 chairs – yet not a word spoken. The physicality of this first scene of Yael Farbers version of „The Crucible“ is incredibly strong and drags the viewer right into the play.

And the physicality of every single character is, what remains the constant in her staging of Arthur Millers story. It’s not only John Proctor (brilliantly played by Richard Armitage), who is present almost all of the time. It’s in every character, may it be Abigail Williams (stage-debut by Samantha Colley), Giles Corey (the admireable William Gaunt) or Rebecca Nurse (the most wonderful Ann Firbank). That was one of the things that amazed me most. The complete cast was so expressive, one could almost sense their every emotion. It send shudders down my spine several times.
I can’t even say whom of the cast was the strongest, because it is nearly impossible. But I have to say that I was especially amazed by Tom Peters, portraying Marshall Herricks. It’s a comparatively small role, but he filled it so completely with life, that he made his appearance more important. I’m still stunned. I guess we’ll have to remember that name.

Richard Armitage's emotionality and physicality draws the viewer in; even the smaller roles like Marshall Herrick (Tom Peters, 2nd right) totally got me; picture courtesy of Jo Allan PR / The Old Vic Theatre (photographer: Johan Persson)
Richard Armitage’s emotionality and physicality draws the viewer in; even the smaller roles like Marshall Herrick (Tom Peters, 2nd right) totally got me;
picture courtesy of Jo Allan PR / The Old Vic Theatre (photographer: Johan Persson)

The protagonists were well-casted. First and foremost of course Richard Armitage, also known as Thorin Oakenshield (The Hobbit) or Lucas North (Spooks). He was the main reason I came to see the play and I wasn’t disappointed. He was perfect in every sense of the word. He was present, he was acting with great passion and sense of detail. Every movement was carried out with such a strength, physicality and tension, that it was almost graspable. He made me cry several times just by being John Proctor, the man, who wants justice for all those falsly accused, who wants freedom and justice. And is yet a broken man, who suffers from his own undoings.

Samantha Colley, whose stage debut „The Crucible“ is, was brilliant as Abigail Williams. She was evil, mean, yet so full of hopes, dreams and passion. The development of her character was pretty well-portrayed. The girl, who wants to destroy a woman, yet she destroys the whole city.

Samantha Colley showed an excellent stage performance as her debut to the big stage as Abigail Williams; picture courtesy of Jo Allan PR / The Old Vic Theatre (photographer: Johan Persson)
Samantha Colley showed an excellent stage performance as her debut to the big stage as Abigail Williams;
picture courtesy of Jo Allan PR / The Old Vic Theatre (photographer: Johan Persson)

One of the most interesting characters in Arthur Millers play was Reverend John Hale. A man of God, being called as an expert for the occult. During the course of the play he begins to think about his own job, his own beliefs and about the jurisdictive he belongs to. He sees John Proctor and he judges him as a good man. As the tragedy unfolds he can’t believe, what happens. He’s broken at the end, willing to act against the men he formerly supported. And what can I say: Adrian Schiller is John Hale.

A troublesome love: John Proctor (Richard Armitage) and his wife Elizabeth (Anna Madeley); picture courtesy of Jo Allan PR / The Old Vic Theatre
A troublesome love: John Proctor (Richard Armitage) and his wife Elizabeth (Anna Madeley);
picture courtesy of Jo Allan PR / The Old Vic Theatre

The rest of the cast is just as brilliant as the three (or four) above: Harry Atwell (Thomas Putnam), Marama Corlett (Betty Parris), Jack Ellis (a five-star Deputy Govenor Danforth), Ann Firbank (Rebecca Nurse), Giles Corey (Wiliam Gaunt), Natalie Gavin (Maryy Warren), Christopher Godwin (Judge Hathorne), Anna Madeley (Elizabeth Proctor), Paddy Navin (Sarah Good), Sarah Niles (Tituba), Neil Salvage (Francis Nurse), Rebecca Saire (Ann Putnam), Michael Thomas (Reverend Parris), Alan Vicary (Ezekiel Cheever), Daisy Waterstone (Susanna Walcott), Matt Weyland (Hopkins), Zara White (Mercy Lewis).

But a stage-play doesn’t only live on the actors portraying the characters. A lot of the atmosphere depends on lighting and stage design. „The Crucible“ lived on less props, yet through an enormous atmosphere created by the usage of light and what was left on stage. Chairs, a table, the cauldron, a few smaller props. Really impressive.

It certainly was a classic arranged with a modern touch! I loved it and would go there as often as I could, when I lived closer.
If you’re interested in reading about my weekend trip to see “The Crucible”, please visit here.

6 thoughts on “[Review] – The Crucible”

  1. I have to say that I completely agree with you about Tom Peters. He had such a presence on stage, and I believed him to be woefully undercast until I saw that he is in fact Mr. Armitage’s understudy. If Richard has to miss a performance, I think the attendees are in for a treat. I am, of course, thrilled that I saw Richard as Proctor. He was absolutely perfect in the role: his Proctor was noble, steadfast, physical, a little bit menacing, and at times heartbreakingly gentle. And Richard as himself was so very kind and gracious when meeting all his supporters afterwards. But, I would go again to see Tom Peters.

    1. Hey Alison,
      I totally agree. I would have loved to see Tom Peters in the role of John Proctor.
      Actually there was an understudy performance, which could be attended free of charge (so it is said… :)).
      Unfortunately I’m not from London and I wasn’t able to see it. But I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for upcoming appearances of Tom.🙂

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