Yesterday I headed out to the theatre to see the wonderful Richard Armitage take on the audience at The Old Vic in an atmospheric and ambitious performance of Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' on a balmy Wednesday afternoon to celebrate my anniversary. Sure, it's not the most romantic thing to see for your anniversary but it's what we did. The Crucible is one of my absolute favourite plays. Judging by the queue of people lined up at the stage door after the performance I'm not the only one who thought the performance was wonderful.
Their decision to make good use of the full potential of the stage and performing in the round, with some audience members actually sitting on the stage, was a really interesting choice. In between scenes the cast create interesting tableaux to create striking metaphorical images. The burning of herbs and release of dry ice start the play as Tituba enters, circling the stage, each step becoming more laboured as she walks around the stage. At the centre of the stage, chairs sit in a disorganised manner. The chairs face different directions. Some are on their sides. The cast enter the stage, taking their seats for a moment, all facing different directions as if to represent Salem's broken societal views and the uncomfortable discord within the town. They look out to the audience, to us, as voyeurs casting our gaze on Salem to remind us that in watching we become just as much of the hysteria as the characters. Then they promptly rise and leave, pulling the chairs away. The set design was perfect with a grimy and almost industrial feel. This created a cold, isolated setting as soon as you entered the theatre. The costumes, set and furniture were all so minimalistic that they did not distract from the players. Major points must be awarded to Richard Hammarton who created all of the background sounds and music. Uncanny noises like clanking metal and clinking glass felt familiar and yet strange in the darkness of the theatre. It created this constant throbbing sound that came in so subtly you hardly noticed when it started. It was minimalistic but eerily atmospheric. In between scenes, furniture was moved and sets were changed, and this was usually done by Abigail Williams and the other young women in on her devil-calling scheme. This served as a subtle reminder of how much control these girls had over the town.
Miller's writing is characteristically strong and powerful. Every member of the cast so skilfully carried the text. In the current run at The Old Vic, Armitage has ambitiously taken up the role of John Proctor. Playing the last good man in Salem, Armitage's performance was strong. Samantha Colley played the darkest and most vindictive Abigail Williams that I have ever seen. She masterfully manipulated her peers and gave such a strong performance. As Betty, Marama Corlett gave a really utilised her body as she contorted herself and writhed in her bed. As Giles Corey, William Gaunt managed to garner a few laughs in such a dark play. Anna Madeley perfectly captured Elizabeth Proctor's cold nature and delivered her final lines with an effortless grace. Yaël Farber has lead the cast superbly and created a wonderful performance from start to finish. It's just a shame that this play doesn't have a longer run. Every movement felt choreographed to perfection and a truly enigmatic performance was created as a result.
This is the most passionately intense performance of The Crucible I've had the pleasure to see and it is a real theatrical triumph. The current run will play until the 13th of September. Click here for tickets and more information.