The Crucible, a thrilling play by the esteemed Arthur Miller, is Strathclyde Re-Act’s latest performance.
The play, said by many to be a ‘rite of passage’ into theatre due to its difficulty, tackles dark and heavy themes of religion, politics and witchcraft in a tragic tale.
The cast stuck to the original setting of the town of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. The play begins with Reverend Parris, the town minister, discovering his daughter and niece, Betty and Abigail, along with the slave Tituba and other girls dancing in the forest. This discovery would set off a series of sinister events rooted in allegations and lies.
The farmer, John, who holds a good standing in the community, is carrying the burden of guilt over past adultery with Abigail. Hidden and buried by John at first, this is revealed in court when, one by one, the girls admit to witchcraft and begin naming names to avoid punishment. His wife Elizabeth is questioned about his adultery and lies to protect his honour, unknowingly damning him and his credibility even more so.
In a time of high tension, where no proof is needed to persecute witches, John must decide whether his life is worth the damage to his name and reputation brought on by (falsely) admitting to witchery.
The stage was atmospherically set with a dark cloth backing, and decorated appropriately for the scene with wooden tables, a handmade fireplace, feathered quills and ink pots for writing and even a gavel for Judge Danforth. Lighting was also varied throughout, from a dull yellow flickering to recreate candlelight to a deep red overcast when Abigail was revealed to be more manipulative and cunning.
This paired with the period dress code of the cast, with many dark colours and cottons, fed into the engagement of the audience to the play.
In many parts of this play, there is scope for error where intense scenes can become over the top and almost comedic. However, the cast did a good job of keeping the scenes grounded throughout.
A good example of this is in the final act where Reverend Hale pleads dearly with John in a chilling and gruelling few minutes. Both actors managed to evoke a sadness from the audience, ending the play on a refreshingly sombre tone.
Another commonly ‘overplayed’ scene is the scene in the courtroom where the girls, led by Abigail, pretend to be possessed, see visions and copy Mary’s pleas as if hypnotised. If overdone the audience can lose their connection with this eerie scene, but the cast played this well and allowed the audience to come to the chilling reality of how judges and reverends could be fooled into making deadly decisions.
Overall, the Re-Act cast did this play justice. Both the main and supporting cast played into each other and allowed the audience envision and relate to the troubles and quarrels of the lower class in 1692, and created sympathy for all those affected by the unfairness and oppression of the court system.
By Keirran Falloon