Up until last week I'd never seen a production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible or even read the play. The Crucible isn't my first experience with Miller's work: I was forced to read and study Death of a Salesman for my A Levels and I found it a dead bore. I had no interest whatsoever in the characters and themes of that play. But when I heard that the Old Vic were doing a production of The Crucible I became curious, although I'll readily admit that I was only interested in it because it was starring Richard Armitage! :) I didn't get the chance to see the play live though and I groaned with envy when I read all of its rave reviews and prayed that it would be streamed in cinemas or put on DVD. In the end my prayer was answered! Digital Theatre filmed the play and it was shown in cinemas in the UK and Ireland this December. I believe that Digital Theatre will then be putting the play on their website this February. I saw The Crucible last Sunday and, well, I had a veery different experience with it than I did with Death of Salesman! The trailer for the production is below:
The Crucible was spectacular. The story of the play is extremely haunting. It was beautifully lit and it was full of tension and atmosphere. Yaël Farber's direction and the acting from the entire cast was magnificent. I can't imagine how the actors found the stamina to play those demanding roles night after night. I was somewhat apprehensive when I found out that this particular production was 3.5 hours long. That's longer than most Shakespeare plays. I think my attention span is pretty good but I wasn't terribly familiar with the play and I did wonder if it would be too long for me. Well, that wasn't remotely the case! I was emotionally invested in it the whole way through. I guess people with very short attention spans might be better off watching the play in stages when it eventually gets put onto the DT website but personally I had no problems with its length. By the time it had ended I certainly didn't feel like I'd been in the cinema for as long as I had. I didn't find the accents in the play at all distracting either. The actors in this production of The Crucible all speak in northern English accents instead of American accents. I thought that this could be quite jarring but actually it worked perfectly well. The people of Massachusetts would have been British citizens at the time after all. Technically the USA wouldn't even exist for another 80 years or so.
Richard Armitage is an RSC trained actor but John Proctor was his first stage role in 12 years. I've been a huge fan of Armitage ever since North and South. He's a brilliant actor and he deserves to be just as appreciated and famous as, say, Tom Hiddleston. Armitage gives a beautiful performance as John Proctor. He puts so much passion and energy and emotion and heart into the role and I really felt for his character. My favourite moments from RA were probably John's first scene with Abigail and his final scene of the play, which is incredibly moving and powerful. I really can't wait to see him play Thorin Oakenshield's descent into madness in the final Hobbit film now! Anna Madeley played the role of Elizabeth Proctor and she gives a very lovely and sympathetic performance. Some readers might know Madeley from her role as Lucy Steele in the 2008 BBC Sense and Sensibility adaptation. I thought Madeley was miscast in that miniseries but I liked her much, much more in The Crucible. The role of Abigail was played by Samantha Colley. Abigail Williams was not only Colley's first ever professional role; she was still at drama school at the time! If there's any justice Colley deserves to have a huge career after this production. She gives a chilling performance and I would never have guessed that it was her first professional role! Another performance that I especially loved in this play was Adrian Schiller as Reverend Hale. I thought I was going to hate Reverend Hale when he first appeared but it turns out that he's actually quite a complex character and by the end of the play I felt really sorry for him. Natalie Gavin was also brilliant as Mary Warren. I'm not going to name any other names but I must stress that every single cast member in this play were great. I don't think I've ever seen a play with such a brilliant ensemble!
I still don't think that I can call myself an Arthur Miller fan but I know that I loved The Crucible. I would definitely rank it as one of my favourite plays and I strongly recommend this production of it. It's a magnificent production and it deserves at least five Olivier Awards! If it doesn't win the awards for Best Revival, Best Director (Farber), Best Leading Actor (Armitage), Best Supporting Actress (Colley) and Best Supporting Actor (Schiller) I'm going to be dreadfully disappointed!
Certificate Rating: 12