The Crucible

Tue 9th – Fri 12th August 2011

reviews

Leonie James

at 10:16 on 10th Aug 2011

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The Crucible is a wonderful play, and this was a competent production of it. I enjoyed the performance largely due to the text. While I was not blown away with the production, it sufficed.

The opening proved highly effective as we had cast enter from the back of the auditorium, singing hymns. The effect was metered somewhat as all actors seemed to be wearing their normal clothes. Reverend Hale was in black, and we had two teenage cast members grey their hair. Aside from this valiant effort, the clothes were modern. This wouldn’t necessarily have been a problem- setting plays in the modern day is a common tool- but this production had no set whatsoever. The lack of props and scenery to set the stage, combined with none-descript clothing (it cannot be described as costume) created no atmosphere. I understand budget constraints, but a small spend would have made a big difference. Even with these modern clothes, the actor who walked on listening to an ipod was both incongruous and absurd. I don’t know what the director was thinking when they allowed this.

The actors played their parts adequately. The theme to this production seems to be competence. There was nothing outstanding about it. There were some flaws, but there always are. They were some enjoyable moments, but hopefully there always will be. Particular credit goes to Abigail Williams, the ringleader of the afflicted girls, who was here portrayed convincingly. One query however lies in the lack of chemistry between her and John Proctor. I found it difficult to believe the two had ever been intimate. Mary Warren was another strong performance. The final courtroom scene was played beautifully, with the three afflicted girls seeing visions whilst Mary Warren and John Proctor argue with the judge in vain.

A major distraction throughout the play was the music. The ominous piano music creeping in was laughable, and detracted both from the words and the tension. Later, the melodramatic classical music accompanying Elizabeth and John hugging mimicked a bad daytime television show. The cast singing worked very well, but aside from this I found every music cue to be unnecessary and irritating.

The Crucible is a wonderful play. If you haven’t seen it before, you will enjoy this production purely thanks to the text. However, this is not a particularly good production, so if you can wait, I would.

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Joe Nicholson

at 10:54 on 10th Aug 2011

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Miller’s The Crucible is a fantastic script which offers much scope for a group such as the Pius IX High School- yet despite showing some elements of potential, the performance did not do the play justice.

The programme describes the performance as one which “engages and challenges”: the audience is confronted by the uncomfortable declaration that “if we [the company] make you think, wonder, and even struggle with what this play means...we will feel we have achieved our goal”. I was suspicious, however, that the cast and direction struggled with the what The Crucible meant: many aspects of the production screamed of a woeful misreading of the text. A particularly bad instance was the ill-advised costume decision to dress the cast in modern clothing: a twenty-first century adaptation could potentially work for the play, but is unwieldy as much of the strength of the allegory rests on the depiction of suspicion of witchcraft. The scene where Cecelia Clark’s Mercy Lewis sauntered over to Betty Parris is made deeply awkward viewing when she removes her iPod from around her neck.

It must be said, however, that some of the choices made by the production in taking up Miller’s play work well, or at least exhibit potential: the use of the entire cast singing as they entered the auditorium was successful in developing the tense mood which every good interpretation of The Crucible should have present. Certain individuals also showed themselves to be talented: Deanna Boland’s Goody Proctor and Alex Sobczak’s Abigail Williams stood in contrast to many of the other actors. Estée O’Connor did well as Deputy Governor Danforth: some of the imperfections in this characterization were, I suspect, due to the moving away from the social allegory of the play in the condensing of the final act. It was painful to watch those who seemed visibly nervous, highlighting a deeply awkward element of the staging: in parts there appeared to be a dire lack of any engagement with the audience, as backs were turned in for long periods, and many actors blocked from view.

The inconsistency in the abilities of individuals onstage really let the production down, with the direction clearly at fault. Sam Mullooly as Reverend Parris was certainly confidence during the performance, but lacked the direction needed to prevent him from making the same exaggerated face of distress whenever any other character spoke in his scenes: an example of another flaw which made Pius IX High’s interpretation of Miller’s work seem highly amateurish. Nevertheless, such a good script did survive many of these errors, and allowed some promising talents to shine through.

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