The opportunity popped up to see Arthur Miller's acclaimed 'The Crucible' as NT Live presented the filmed edition of the hit play; and I immediately said yes. Growing up as a theatre nerd, I had constant run-ins with this text, but never had read or seen it myself, until now!
'The Crucible' is a 1953 play written by Miller that dramatises (and partly fictionalises) the events of the Salem witch trials. The story follows the puritan colonists of Massachusetts and the conflicts created in their isolated, religious society. John Proctor is a local farmer who attempts to make sense of the new ideologies of town as he seeks to defend his wife in the oncoming trials.
Olivier Award-winner Lyndsey Turner does a fantastic job of directing a, what I would call, authentic representation of the play. As a first-timer, it was great to have the opportunity to watch 'The Crucible' in a raw and organic way that remained faithful to the time, community and puritan atmosphere. Es Devlin's set is gripping – immediately setting a suspenseful tone with a water curtain that intermittently rains down on the stage. The use of space is adventurous with a choir articulating scenes in the background or the recreation of dialogues utilising light behind other scenes of action. Turner's use of music, particularly the girls singing, was highly effective; often driving the suspense of scenes.
Eileen Walsh, who plays John Proctor's wife, is a notable performance. She executes perfect balance within her character - often playing with strength and sensitivity in her performance. Brendan Cowell as John Proctor himself was dependable in his performance. He is, what I would assume, exactly what you would want and need a John Proctor to be in 'The Crucible.' Sturdy, gruff farmer man who makes a transitional growth and eventually sees the light of truth, justice, and a name.
There were some elements of the play that could have been stronger or required a little more tightening. At times the humour slipped – and you could feel the audience thinking about whether it an appropriate time to laugh or not. This often interrupted the suspense of a scene or muddled with its rhythm. Additionally, there were a few accents where... well, I'm not quite sure where they came from, but it wasn't Massachusetts.
Es Devlin's set is gripping – immediately setting a suspenseful tone with a water curtain that intermittently rains down on the stage.
While I did enjoy it and I think the National Theatre did a great job of capturing a play on film – it goes without saying that, anytime I see a theatre production in a cinema, it just doesn't quite have the same effect. That may be just my own tarnished expectations I need to grapple with, but it's somewhat of a bummer to know that it's not as good as what it would be live. Notably, it is a 3-hour run time with an intermission, so make sure you come armed with snacks!
If, like me, you haven't had a chance to delve down and interact with the play – get along and go see it. Miller's writing is masterful. The most suspenseful part was perhaps finding that his observations of society aren't so different from today's world...