In an attempt to conceal their non-Puritan activities (dancing in the woods, naked) and save their own lives, a group of young women use the Puritan beliefs in their favour and turn Salem into a hotspot for trial and death.
Welcome to ‘the Crucible’.
In case you don’t know, ‘crucible’ means ‘witch hunt’, so in a way the title says it all. Plus, coincidentally, it also means ‘ordeal’, seeing that the town’s inhabitants have to deal with the charge for a religious crime they in fact did not commit, both synonyms can be used to describe the play’s plot.
Looking back at 17th century North America when the Bible used to be the absolute law, Salem’s theocracy (religion rules!) shows an extreme form of Puritan belief that descends into chaos. As atheists the scale of religiousness of the play was mildly terrifying to us at times.
‘There can never be enough religion in ‘The Crucible’.’ – Neele
‘I could have lived with less.’ – Maria
The actors certainly had a difficult task depicting characters shaped by these exceedingly religious beliefs. Yet the entire cast did an amazing job in portraying each individual’s faith in the play.
There are seven characters who struck the authors in particular: Abigail Williams, 17 years old and former maid of the Proctors, who after being rejected by John embarks on a hunt for revenge by accusing his wife of witchcraft; John Proctor, key person of the play, gets involved in the mess through his affair with Abigail, and loses his life in the attempt to stay truthful until the very end; Elizabeth Proctor, John’s betrayed wife, a symbol of innocence in a community dripping of sin; Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth, a judge encapsulating the Puritan evil; Reverend John Hale, who goes from being an expert of witchcraft to a solemn minister; Mary Warren, John and Elizabeth Proctor’s house maid, who’s an innocent acting girl in the beginning, later an instrument for John, and finally an egocentric human being, saving her own life; and last but not least, Giles Corey, a farmer in Salem, serving as the comic relief who in the midst of despair always has a funny remark in petto.
Although the performances were outstanding, the authors believe too much play time was given to Richard Armitage who plays John Proctor, who by all means did an amazing job, but it was quite obvious whom the director regarded as the star of the play. The promotional poster only showed Armitage for a start. On top of that, he was often topless (eye candy, ladies and gentlemen).
Yet, although Armitage was assigned a lot of speech, the dialogues on the whole were still balanced and gave the actors the opportunity to portray their characters originally and uniquely, thus giving each of them the chance to shine.
The set up was sparse throughout the play; single pieces of furniture such as a bed or a table were displayed. Quite interestingly, the stage was located in the middle of the room (theatre in the round), a logistic masterpiece that probably led to a strong link between the actors and the audience.
The costumes seemed to be authentic and especially the women’s headscarves were carefully rearranged so that in the right moments they hid their locks (that is, whenever men were around – except for their husbands or affairs). The connection between the play’s costumes and storyline became discernible in these moments.
What delighted the authors was the background music that was uncanny, fitting and propelled one into the horrors of the time. Composed for this special interpretation, the orchestral music intensified the feelings conveyed.
Our only major negative point was the fade-ins and fade-outs between intervals, such as the break after two hours, and the change of setting. Unfortunately, this cinematic direction reduced the theatrical experience, because the camera angles and movements were too close and quick. Then again, this aspect was made up for by the accompanying music.
Both authors genuinely believe that the play managed to communicate the atmosphere of the time, place and the social tensions in which the play is set…though at times we were wishing that the end was nigh. (Three and a half hours! On a Monday night! That’s commitment, my friends!)
– Maria and Neele
The authors were listening to strange French sounds emitting from the nearby classroom while writing this review.