Douglas Rintoul, director of this staging by Selladoor Productions and Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, has recently asked whether The Crucible is the ultimate post-truth play. A play where fear, testimony, faith, integrity and love are all challenged can stand for all time. Audiences can come and deduce what they wish from Miller’s allegorical tale. The desire to seek parallels and allegories is not a pre-requisite. The pure brilliance of the script shines out, although echoes from across the Atlantic loom large when we wonder whether we can trust what is served to us as news in papers and on social media.
But it takes a cast of subtly nuanced performances to bring a script to life and go beyond its historic resonances. Every single cast member excels in their role, no matter how small. Each of the main characters bears their flaws but revels in the cloak of their words. This is a society disintegrating. Lucy Keirl as Abigail is controlling and assured. Victoria Yeates’s Elizabeth is stoic and true. Eoin Slattery, as John Proctor, is so much more human than Miller’s man on the page. Energy bounces around the whole ensemble.
A slight unfortunate issue at this performance, noted by some of the audience, is a problem with the clarity of the dialogue, especially when actors had their backs to the auditorium.
Essentially, this is a well-known story. However, within it there are a number of sub-texts. These keep the play fresh as they reflect our on-going struggles and conflicts. The collateral damage that ensues from the girls’ testimonies results in an escalation of events where even the most innocent of witnesses are accused. We are left wondering what on earth we would do if placed in a similar situation.
This production is supplemented by curriculum materials. Today’s secondary school pupils will inherit our post-truth world and The Crucible stands as a luminous map for these new and strange times.