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…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…

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 …