Skip to main content

The Crucible

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Everything is laid bare in John Dove's production of Arthur Miller's all too timely fable of new puritanism and how a divide and rule ideology can damn us all. It happens between the cracks of the bare floorboards of designer Michael Taylor's spartan set. It's there too in the skeletal framework that surrounds it flanked with barren trees. Most of all it's there in the hearts and minds of Miller's small town rural society that's ripped asunder by secrets and lies. Once exposed, the mass hysteria these provoke destroys everyone who claims any kind of moral high-ground.

Fear is at the heart of Miller's seventeenth century story in which solitary farmer John Proctor goes to the gallows along with most of Salem after his illicit liaison with Abigail Williams kickstarts a witchhunt. It's a fear of sex, books, dancing and all those things that might enlighten us enough to see through an oppressive regime that would rather control its subjects than foster anything resembling community or joy.

As played by Philip Cairns, who leads one of the largest casts the Royal Lyceum has hosted in recent times, Proctor here seems more saintly than alpha-male. This creates a more complex, less black and white dynamic, both with Irene Allan's Elizabeth Proctor and with Meghan Tyler's Abigail. It also points up Proctor's own weakness, the consequences of which he only fully comes to terms with once it's too late.

Such understatement is a double-edged sword, so at times there's a lack of urgency onstage. Despite this, modern parallels aren't hard to spot. The manufactured hysteria caused in part by the attention-seeking antics of Abigail and her entourage would today be the stuff of tabloid headlines plastered in our faces as a distraction from things that matter. Either that or a barrage of social media abuse would be forthcoming. With twenty-one people onstage, it's facinating during some fine set-pieces watching the faces of those not speaking for clues. In this sense, and as ever with Miller, the devil is in the detail.

The Herald, February 22nd 2016

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …