The Crucible (London) OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Johan Persson





Opening Night:
June 21, 2014
September 13, 2014

Theater: The Old Vic / The Cut, London, SE1 8NB


Richard Armitage stars in Arthur Miller’s classic American drama brought vividly to life in this visceral new production by internationally acclaimed director Yaël Farber. In a small tight-knit community, personal grievances collide with lust and superstition, fuelling widespread hysteria. Miller’s timeless parable attacks the evils of mindless persecution and the terrifying power of false accusations.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Crucible (London)

    The Body of Salem, Its Nerves Frayed ‘The Crucible,’ by Arthur Miller, Plays at the Old Vic

    Ben Brantley

    July 11, 2014: The Puritan torturers who try to break the spirit of John Proctor, the honor-bound hero of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, have nothing on the devastating revival of that play that recently opened at the Old Vic. As directed by Yael Farber, this three-and-a-half-hour production applies unrelieved pressure to your nerves — and, it would seem, muscles that include the heart — until you’re a submissive puddle of pity and terror. In doing so, Ms. Farber makes the most convincing case that I’ve encountered for the greatness of this 1953 drama about the Salem witch trials, a longtime staple of American high school reading lists and community theaters. Her interpretation brings out this play’s echoes of Greek tragedy, where conscious words and actions are rooted in cavernous depths. Like Ms. Farber’s galvanizing Mies Julie, a retelling of Strindberg’s psychodrama, her latest offering is charged with a brute physicality. We’re always aware of the nearness of Miller’s 17th-century New Englanders to the soil they till, and to potential violence.

  • THE GUARDIAN REVIEW OF The Crucible (London)

    The Crucible review – an engrossing, fiery evening

    Susannah Clapp

    July 12, 2014: I went to The Crucible half-expecting the director Yael Farber to have shifted the action from the Massachusetts of 1692. After all, her magnificent Mies Julie made Strindberg's hard play work by placing the action in 21st-century South Africa. Yet Farber has made no such alteration. She shows that Arthur Miller's drama can press on tender current concerns without any updating. The Old Vic is having a season in the round. So the audience encircle the fine, dark design of (yes, she again) Soutra Gilmour. The stage is sometimes lit by lantern glimmers but often filled with darkness, penetrated by swirls of smoke. You might be sitting around a cauldron; you might be taking part in a witches' sabbath. Miller's dramatic rendering of the Salem witch hunts is most celebrated as a response to McCarthyism. The playwright went off to look at the records of Salem trials just after he had heard from his friend Elia Kazan that he had decided to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. In the States after 9/11 it has been thought of as a reflection on the Patriot Act. Actually, it provokes varied interpretations each time it gets a good staging. And Farber's staging is strong, if sometimes overemphatic. The play looks newly acute about religious fundamentalism, and the way a sexual encounter between a young girl and an older man can come back to haunt him. Its eloquence about the unreliability of confessions made under duress also strikes with fresh force.

  • TELEGRAPH REVIEW OF The Crucible (London)

    The Crucible, Old Vic, review: 'The intensity of a thriller'

    Charles Spencer

    July 4, 2014: Great plays can change their meaning with the passing of time and shifts in attitudes. When I was studying The Tempest as a student, it was viewed as Shakespeare’s farewell to the theatre and a moving meditation on the possibility of hard-won forgiveness. These days, it is often regarded as a study of colonialism and racial exploitation. Something similar has happened with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. His account of the 17th-century witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts was inspired by the paranoia about Communists whipped up by Senator Joseph McCarthy, and the investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee. These days, however, this superb play strikes different notes. It now seems to be about the present danger of religious fundamentalism, and of the mindset of those who believe that they should kill in the name of God. In her thrilling production at the Old Vic, which lasts three and a half hours but never loosens its dramatic grip, the South African director Yaël Farber doesn’t labour the point but trusts the audience to make its own connections with our own troubled times. The drama is staged with a mixture of simplicity and dramatic power that builds up an ominous feeling of dread and fear.

  • THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF The Crucible (London)

    The Crucible, Old Vic, review: 'Unmissable'

    Paul Taylor

    July 4, 2014: Yael Farber's mesmerising production of Arthur Miller's great play unfolds with the sick dread of a horrible dream from which you are powerless to awake. The South African director made a huge impact internationally with her Mies Julie in which she transplanted Strindberg's classic and its master-slave dynamic to the present day in her native country. Here, she keeps matters firmly rooted in the Salem of 1692 whose witch trials provided Miller with a way of confronting the McCarthyite Red scare of the 1950s. It's a tribute to the play that its world, so deftly evoked, both resists updating and renders it completely unnecessary, such is the timeless relevance of its portrait of a community driven by paranoia into accepting lies as truth and demanding false accusations as the price of survival. I will never forget the sobs that I heard from a Broadway audience at a production staged shortly after George Bush had instituted the Patriot Act. Farber's revival brings the nightmare madness home to us with an extraordinary physical intensity, a masterly feel for the different emotional rhythms in Miller's scenes and a tension that is brilliantly sustained over the show's three-and-a-half hours running time.

  • TIME OUT UK REVIEW OF The Crucible (London)

    The Crucible Time Out Review

    Andrzej Lukowski

    July 4, 2014: Three-and-a-half-hours engulf your soul like a black mass in this titanic, ritualistic production of Arthur Miller’s tragedy about the Salem witch trials from hot property South African director Yaël Farber. And yes, that is one heck of a running time, partly due to a clutch of wordless movement sequences Farber has inserted into the in-the-round production, most notably the audacious opening in which the entire, black-clad cast shuffle about the stage in a fug of incense like some apocalyptic rite (kudos to movement director Imogen Knight). For the most part, Farber does nothing more revolutionary than provide Miller’s text the amount of space it needs: there’s no sense of time wasted, it’s more that every word has been considered and given its due weight, and there is a harshly beautiful ebb and flow to everything, a sense that the doom of this small Massachusetts town is closing in like clockwork. The speaking – in harsh Yorkshire accents – is painful, blunt and clear, Richard Hammarton’s unsettling string and drone-based score punctuates it perfectly, Tim Lutkin’s monochrome lights add to the feel of unforgiving Old Testament reality. Everything else is pared away – there’s austere period costume, but no set to speak of. This is a granite hard, precision cut, intensely atmospheric production that transcends the original context of the play – an allegory for McCarthyism – expanding it into a weighty examination of the human capacity for irrational hatred.



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