Pitlochry Festival Theatre
When Judge Danforth talks about getting to the bottom of the swamp in the third act courtroom scene of Arthur Miller’s McCarthy era masterpiece, it’s hard not to pick up on the accidental contemporary resonance of such populist rhetoric. This is one of many things that stand out in Elizabeth Newman’s production, which sees Salem inhabited by the spirit of Pitlochry itself, embodied here by designer Adrian Rees’ sturdy reproduction of the shoogly suspension bridge that crosses the River Tummel.
Like any small town after dark from Pitlochry to Twin Peaks, Salem holds its secrets. Here, it comes in the shape of a girl gang raving it up in the woods as any bored teenagers might.
The hysteria that results from such hormonally charged wig-outs to what’s perceived to be the Devil’s music - personified here by freeform bursts of electric guitar and drums – has consequences beyond the mere letting off of adolescent steam.
Much of this is down to the mean girls themselves, who fall under the influence of Fiona Wood’s Abigail Williams. Abigail’s status is high following her illicit dalliance with Harry Long’s John Proctor, and the girls believe themselves to be invincible as they bask in the fame their games have brought them before things get out of hand.
With Newman’s largely youngish cast clad in various shades of denim, there is little ambiguity here about who is being stitched up. These days, Abigail’s clique would be indulging in social media pile-ons against the likes of Elizabeth Proctor, played here by Claire Dargo in a poignant study of put-upon integrity in the face of her husband’s grudging martyrdom. Deirdre Davis adds gravitas as Danforth, and it is with the judge the buck must stop, as every bridge that once kept a community together in fragile peace is burnt beyond repair.
The Herald, July 15th 2019