REVIEW: Manchester Opera House welcomes The Crucible

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ARTHUR Miller’s seminal play, The Crucible has been consistently popular with audiences since it first saw the stage back in the 1950s.

Last night saw this 2017 tour reach the Manchester Opera House and it certainly did not disappoint.

The Crucible is one of those plays that is so intriguing and so memorable each time you see it.  Whether you’re reading it, watching Daniel Day-Lewis transform (as always) in the 1996 film or seeing it as intended on the live stage, the story and the subtext alone is enough to leave you satisfied.

The Salem witch trials of 1692, of which the play is based on, were not necessarily as extreme as depicted in The Crucible but this play is all about anxiety, scaremongering and paranoia in society. Knowing that, it makes sense that Miller wrote it originally as a comment on the ‘red scare’ and the communist blacklisting in Hollywood in the 1950s. He saw those historical witch trials as an older example of exactly what was going on at that time in American history.

The director of this production, Douglas Rintoul notes that during rehearsals back in January, himself and the cast kept constantly drawing parallels between the play and the current paranoid political climate both in the UK and the US, again showing that The Crucible is a tale that is still so relevant.

This is an intense, powerful and atmospheric production using the lighting and music to perfection in those scenes that truly call for the dark drama. As the play grows more and more intense, the performances grow with it and leave you with a stark reminder of the horrific lengths a paranoid society will go to.

Eoin Slattery as John Proctor, the protagonist, a man whose ex-lover accuses his wife of witchcraft and gets caught up in the manipulation and personal vendettas himself, is the highlight performance along with Jonathan Tafler as scene stealing Judge Danforth who brings a terrifyingly powerful presence to the play in the latter stages.

Coronation Street’s Charlie Condou plays Reverend Hale, a travelling clergyman who at first is there to rid Salem of the demonic presence but comes to realise the horror of what the townspeople are actually doing to each other.

As an ensemble the acting is strong with Victoria Yeates (Call The Midwife), Augustina Seymour and Lucy Keirl also giving memorable performances as women truly damaged by these accusations.

The Crucible is well worth your time; not only for those already familiar with the play, but for those interested in this kind of allegorical political drama. Occasional moments of levity can be found in this production but you go for the legendary story of cultural anxiety and manipulation and you leave being entirely satisfied with what you’ve seen.

The production lasts at the Manchester Opera House until May 13 before moving on to Cardiff, starting there on May 23.

Tickets and information on the production can be found here and you can follow the production on Twitter – @TheCrucibleTour

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