The Crucible ★★★★ Gielgud Theatre | Jun 7 - Sep 2, 2023

Arthur Miller intended this play about the Salem witch trials of 1692-1693 to be a direct commentary on America's persecution of alleged communists in the 1950s. However, the manipulation of society through self-interested gossip, the promotion of conspiracy theories and the demonisation of 'the other' rings equally true for our current social media saturated society. This production from the National Theatre is both timely and darkly foreboding. While Miller's ominous depiction has profound contemporary resonance, the play itself sometimes seems rather prolix, and despite all the drama of the events taking place, it comes off as fairly remote and static. The prologue is unnecessary and Miller's use of a pseudo archaic syntax is sometimes distracting. Milly Alcock puts in a strong performance as Abigail, the sly instigator of the crisis who is manipulating events to protect herself and to re-engage her lover, John Proctor. As the decent, rational man who once succumbed to his passion and seduced Abigail, Brian Gleeson is convincingly agonised as he strives to deal with his own weakness and to stand up for common sense. Caitlin Fitzgerald's performance as Proctor's sedate, suspicious wife is artfully restrained and nicely complements his fervour. As hysteria overtakes the town, people start to use it to settle old scores, until they find they themselves are consumed by the maelstrom that has been unleashed. Miller's commentary on the dangers of emotion and credulity unchecked by reason remains powerful, and this production is a timely reminder of that simple truth.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

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