The Crucible – Old Vic Theatre, London
I’ll admit, the main reason I wanted to see this play was for Richard Armitage, I’ve enjoyed much of his TV acting and this was his first stage role in thirteen years so it seemed too good to miss.
I haven’t been to the Old Vic for over two years but it’s amazing how different it feels in this configuration, it feels as intimate as a studio.
There’s a definite sense of foreboding to the production that begins before the play even starts, as you move through the theatre to take your seat you can feel the tangible change of atmosphere and smell the burning incense.
This continues throughout the play, thanks to Soutra Gilmour’s sparse set design and Tim Lutkin’s beautiful lighting.
Richard Armitage plays John Proctor, dominating the stage, he has an incredible presence on stage full of fire and authority.
Anna Madeley was the second reason for me wanting to see this production. I think she’s a fantastic actress and she is immensely moving and sympathetic as Elizabeth Proctor, despite being such an uptight character.
Together they bring real emotion to their scenes. The final scene of the play is beautiful and astonishing. Their disagreements have subsided and they finally rediscover and reach a point where they can express their love for each other. Their final moments together are played beautifully and are heartbreaking.
However, it’s Samantha Colley who is an utter delight. This is her professional stage debut and she is mesmerising as Abigail, fiercely determined, yet utterly chilling, she commands the audience’s attention whenever she’s on the stage.
The rest of the cast are all equally excellent. Adrian Schiller gives an outstanding performance as Reverend Hale showing his downfall from ambivalent academic to the broken man that we see at the end.
Jack Ellis is also excellent as the cold, obstinate Danforth.
William Gaunt as Giles Corey first provides some comic relief but later becomes heartbreaking as he fights to save his wife and griefs over the treatment of those around him. Natalie Gavin is compelling as Mary Warren, who begins by trying to be honest and good but fails following the pressure of those around her.
Even Marama Corlett puts in an incredible physical performance as Betty Parris with an almost balletic quality that is quite captivating.
There has been much talk of the running time of this play (4 hours including a 20-minute interval) but to be honest the tone and general feel of the plays helps to ensure that it never becomes painful to watch.
This is a powerful production and I left the theatre feeling drained, devastated, yet absolutely exhilarated.