The devil is alive at the Gielgud.

Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

After a run at The National Theatre, Arthur Miller’s controversial at the time but ultimate masterpiece has transferred to the West End for a second run. Directed by Lyndsey Turner, this classic play is, unfortunately, overall unimpressive and drags for an incredibly lengthy three hours (including interval). Water falls from the front of the stage, which is an aesthetic addition, but has no relevance to the show. During scene changes, the light illuminating the waterfall also illuminates the stage, allowing us to see the cast and stagehands moving about, making it look quite unprofessional. The stage is very obviously raked, with no optical illusion to even try to make it look flat. I marveled how the cast didn’t constantly slide down it. Nothing about the set (Es Devlin) or costumes (Catherine Fay) wowed me – once again, a very disappointing surprise for a National Theatre and now West End production.

One positive of the stage’s dramatic incline is the use of the characters miming past events as the forefront characters spoke. Bizarrely, the cast does a very poor job at cheating out, leaving me frustratingly looking at the back of their heads as they speak. There are a lot of slip ups with their American accents, and not all of them have the same American accent. Their dialogue is stilted, sounding almost like an English class whose students have been assigned roles to read aloud. I can hardly blame the cast for this, however, because the script (though I didn’t have the 1953 play text in front of me) seems to be verbatim to the original play.

Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

The Crucible was originally only deemed a sensation because of its comment on the world at the time. It’s not a play about the Salem Witch Trials; it’s a play about the Red Scare in 1950s America. Save for the girls quoting Miller’s introduction to the book (which is exasperatingly dense), there is no mention of the play’s allegorical nature. What is the point of putting on a dated play if not to make it relevant to today’s world? It is a disservice to itself to simply put it on as is without making adjustments. There are so many opportunities that could have been taken: they could have shone a light on a criminally underrated and under-shown character, Tituba; they could have delved into the girls’ psychologies and the mob mentality mindset; they could have explored the influence of religion and its use as a weapon for personal interests. Choosing just one of these (or any other) themes could have monumentally improved this production and made it a relevant, three-dimensional, well-worth seeing play.

Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Despite my previous frustrations, a few actors shine brightly. Brian Gleeson as John Proctor is amazing and one of the few actors with a perfect American accent. Portraying perhaps the character who shows the most depth, Gleeson plays him with passion, giving a very powerful and emotional last scene. Caitlin FitzGerald as his wife, Elizabeth, leaves something to be desired, especially playing opposite such an intense character. She strangely always has a slight smile on her face and doesn’t show much distress, even as she is arrested, or when her husband decides to succumb to death. Henry Everett as the fervently devoted to the law judge is another stand-out actor.

Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

It is a shame Tituba has such little stage time because Nadine Higgin is brilliant as the scapegoat character. Nia Towle as the conflicted Mary Warren is also outstanding; her scene where she gives into Abigail’s tricks had me holding my breath. Milly Alcock (clearly used as a marketing tool on all the posters given her recent success in House of the Dragon) plays the self-interested Abigail Williams, and though she gives a spectacular performance when pretending to be possessed by Mary, I wish I would have seen a more devious and sinister side to her for the rest of the show. In fact, I wish there were more moments with the girls overall. They are hands-down the best part of the production, all together very strong and very chilling with their harmonious singing. I was always looking forward to their scenes.

Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Shining in some areas and dim in others, The Crucible is a show I’d recommend to lovers of classics. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Crucible is on at the Gielgud Theatre until the 2nd of September – find out more here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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