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"I believe that those who see this production, will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history".
by Arthur Miller
Set in Salem, Massachusetts, 1692, a community stands accused of witchcraft, and in the mood of fear and recriminations that develops, men denounce their neighbours and truth is perverted by superstition. As the small Salem community is stirred into madness and the play reaches it's violent climax, the events it describes, become a timeless vision of the evils of mindless persecution.
Review by John Thaxter for Richmond and Twickenham Times (September 1994)Playing away from home, Youth Action Theatre last week staged four performance of Arther Miller's The Crucible in the studio theatre of Teddington School as a summer holiday activity for 22 young actors.
Scrubbed pine flooring, black drapes and simple lighting recalled Miller's own 'bare-boards' version. And with the simplest of furnishings and doorways, designed and constructed by Dennis Baker, the setting perfectly matched Eric Yardley's plain Puritan approach to the play. But the otherwise fine costumes could have used a touch more starch on the white collars.
Miller's play sticks to the historical facts about the Salem witch trials of 1692 when a group of pubescent girls, caught dancing naked in the woods, involved hundreds of innocent people in hysterical charges of diabolism as a means of exculpating themselves.
But it also drew parallels with the McCarthyite trials of the Fiftiesm brought powerfully home in this production by the snarling authority of Andrew Everett's stocky Deputy Governor, Michael Smith's bigoted Parris and a performance of blazing intelligence by Steven Peters as the Reverend Hale, witchhunter with a liberal conscience.
The central story is a love triangle involving John and Elizabeth Proctor and their former servant Abigail, who plots againgst Elizabeth in the hope of supplanting her as John's wife.
Jo Viney's Abigail, blonde and slender, clear-eyed and dazzlingly sexual, gave the role a terrifying credibility, the best I've seen; supported by Daisy Hughes as the trembling Mary, with low-key hysterics from Sharon Banks, Theresa Watson, Emma Donaghy, Gaby Wine, and a fine Barbadian cameo by Alice Langrish as Tituba, who almost certainly was dabbling in black magic.
As YAT's strongest actor, Peter Gardiner's sturdy account of Proctor was spoken in the Scottish burr Miller himself defined for the role. His briskness in the early scenes with Sarah Moulds as his wife made her performance seem subdued. But their closing moments in the Salem jail were touchingly played before, saving both his name and his soul, Proctor marches off to the gallows.
Among an excellent supporting cast there was notable work by Louise Doubble as the saintly Rebecca; Tom Trounce's Marshall; and Henry Everett and Catherine Barrs as the pious, self-seeking Putnams.
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