Alex Wood | 04 Nov 2016 17:47pm
For many years part of my job involved teaching US politics and the McCarthy era has always intrigued (and infuriated) me. And I have huge admiration for Miller’s work – especially Death of a Salesman.
I recall seeing The Crucible three times – once professionally at the Royal, Northampton, once by amateurs and the most recent film version. But in one way or another they all disappointed me so it was with some apprehension that I approached this production.
I am pleased to say that my concern was totally unwarranted as BCP brought this very important play to life.
The staging was simple but very clever, complementing the action with a set that adapted to be a bedroom, farmhouse parlour, courtroom and prison cell. And along each side of the stage were long black blocks – where in the first half of the play cast members not involved in the action sat and looked on (presumably at ‘private’ matters being exposed to cold light of day).
I also liked the use of the auditorium by the girls – entering as a noisy gaggle at the start of the play to gather and dance in the wood as the slave Tituba appears to cast a spell, and in the courtroom scene running up the stairs in an hysterical ‘bewitched’ state.
Nik Lester played the Reverend Parris, whose daughter appears bewitched by the events in the wood, at first enthusiastic in the vanguard of the witchfinders but at the end of the play a chastened man following the departure of his niece with his life savings. This was a big part and Nik dealt with it very well.
Philip Fine played Reverend John Hale, called in by Parris to establish whether witchcraft was taking place in Salem. I thought Philip more than succeeded in playing this complex character, aware of justice and humanity but also wishing to identify witchcraft in the community.
The most poignant scenes in the play featured Finn Ridley as John Proctor – a key role in which he did himself great credit. On his visit to the Parris house he finds Abigail Williams (played with a scarily chill cunning by Cara Mattinson), Parris’ niece, with whom he has had an affair which his wife discovered, causing her to be sent away. The tension between the two was palpable. In the second act John arrives home with news of the witch hunting in Salem only to be reminded of his misdemeanour by his wife Elizabeth (Debbie Watson) after she discovers that he has been talking to Abigail and is angry that he will not go to court to denounce her – which would inevitably lead to him being exposed as an adulterer.
I felt that in both this and the final acts Debbie was excellent – a wronged wife who nonetheless was ultimately willing to forgive John, even though he could not forgive himself.
I was also very impressed by Lauren Dunn, playing Mary Warren. She hit just the right note as the troubled and confused girl who, under pressure from John Proctor, does the ‘right thing’ by accusing her friends of lying but when accused of being a witch herself, recants.
Deputy Governor Danforth was played with great authority by Andy Allen, who commanded the stage in the second half of the play as interrogator in chief.
Without exception the whole cast made this production, from start to finish, a totally watchable ‘thriller’.
It was clear that a lot of thought, time and effort had gone into the costumes for the show, for which Jane Shanahan is to be commended.
If I have a criticism of this production it is that, whilst lines were well-learnt (no prompts) and, in the main, diction was clear, there were a few occasions when ‘in the heat of the moment’ the need for conflict and argument took over from clarity.
That said, after reviewing BCP productions for the last 4 seasons I can state with some confidence that this is the best show I have seen – which says a great deal for a company with such high standards and the director of this show, Chrissie Garrett.
- : user
- : 02/11/2016