Saturday 17 June 2023

The Crucible - Review

Gielgud Theatre, London


Written by Arthur Miller
Directed by Lyndsey Turner

Matthew Marsh and the girls of Salem

Transferring across the Thames to the West End, the National Theatre’s production of The Crucible, masterful last year in the Olivier, has only improved with the passage of time with Lyndsey Turner’s interpretation of Arthur Miller’s bitter allegory on McCarthyist America continuing to fuse brilliant writing with a stunning troupe of actors.

The play famously examines the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and considers how easily truth can be upended by widely-spread canards that defy both science and belief if enough people buy into the lie. One does not have to look too far in our modern world to see the chilling parallels between 17th century Massachusetts and the 21st century Western world.

But the strength of Miller’s writing goes so much deeper than a witch-hunt on American’s eastern seaboard. His narrative tests the very fabrics of love, integrity and above all humanity.

There are some cast changes from the South Bank’s 2022 company. Brian Gleeson takes over as John Proctor the story’s fallible everyman, a farmer whose principles humble us all, with Caitlin FitzGerald now playing his wife Elizabeth. Both performances are outstanding with the pair creating a devastatingly credible love that can only end in tragedy. Matthew Marsh reprises his role as Deputy Governor Danforth, the inquisitor of the piece. Marsh is villainous yet imperious and earns our contempt without once descending into melodrama. Equally, in a modest yet critical role for highlighting the murderous madness of the times, Karl Johnson breaks our hearts as the heroic veteran Giles Corey.

And then there are the young girls on whose false testimony innocents were hung and a society devastated. Newcomers again step into these roles, with Milly Alcock's Abigail Williams and Nia Towle as Mary Warren both terrifying as they rise to the challenge of leading the story's "children" in their lies.

Drama does not get better than this. Only on until September, The Crucible is not only unmissable theatre, it is essential theatre. Just go!

Runs until 2nd September
Photo credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

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