Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Played with energy and conviction

The Crucible

Aberystwyth Community Theatre , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , May-23-08
The Crucible by Aberystwyth Community Theatre A hymnal sung by an unseen choir begins the play. Then the lights come up on the square of wooden flooring where the performance will be played out.

The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s denouncement of McCarthyism, is probably one of the best known plays of the last century. Set around the Salem witch hunts, it doubles as a commentary on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities- the communist “witch hunt” of the
1950s.

Things begin when the town priest, Reverend Parris finds his niece Abigail and other local girls dancing in the woods at night. Fearful of witchcraft he sends for Reverend Hale, an expert on the subject. Meanwhilst the girls elect to save themselves by accusing others, playing off the towns fears.

Fuelled by the backbiting local politics of any small town, Salem tears itself apart. The quarrels between neighbours escalate, the gallows are
erected, Judges sit in session and death warrants are drawn. And caught in the middle is the “hero” John Proctor, who through trying to prove that
the girls are lying, finds himself accused.

As in any well known play, the risk is that every member of the audience will have their own ideas as to how it should be performed. Richard
Cheshire takes the simple (and if I’m asked, the correct) approach, with a small stage, the minimum of scenery and few effects beyond dramatic
lighting. However, Miller’s play does not come out intact- his dialogue has been cut (presumably for reasons of running time) and portions of the
screenplay have been grafted on. As to whether this last is advisable, I remain undecided, but I would have liked to see the play intact.

Acting however, was generally superb. The court scenes in particular had an energy and conviction that caught the audience by the throat.

One scene in particular, when Judge Danforth cross-examines the accused was superb. However in smaller scenes, the pace seemed to slacken. As with any first night, allowances must be made, but at times John Proctor’s characterisation seemed to lack conviction, with his constant movement detracting from the strength of the character, although this improved as the scenes of the play became more intense. Acting wise however, the man of the match awards go to David Blumfield as Judge Danforth the presiding judge, Ioan Guile as Giles Corey, the litigious landowner who finds himself out of his depth and Paddy Cooper as the venal Reverend Parris. A group award goes to the “witches” who bought to life some of the plays more disturbing moments, although they are too many to list here.

All in all then, it was a play well worth seeing, both for the depth of its writing and the quality of its performance. If the pace picks up as
the run continues, it will be even more worth the watching. At the moment I’d say seven out of ten. Congratulations to all involved and good luck for the rest of the run.

Reviewed by: Alex Gilbey

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