The body of work compiled by Arthur Miller rightly made him one of America’s greatest playwrights. It therefore seems a bold move to adapt one of his plays; but to choose The Crucible is far from the easiest option. Some may challenge whether this is a true adaptation or even a musical; more a play with songs. It is nevertheless, a spirited interpretation with characters lifted from Miller’s brooding 1953 classic.
The story tells of the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts Bay Colony during the 1690s. The village of Salem is under attack as locals are accused of witchcraft. Those found guilty are executed or killed for refusing to plead. A four strong cast comprising Mairi Hawthorn, Gracie Lai, Olivia Kennett and Sasha Wilson explore the story with energy and imagination; earthy folk songs add tension while the narrative works effectively with limited stage time. Clad in shades of black cloth and leather, they must have sweated buckets on such a warm evening. The compact performance area has minimal aircon and a full house makes the production even more of a towering achievement. A simple change of cloak represents a smooth transition between characters as the story develops. The performers are also proficient musicians doubling up on guitar and violin.
The play projects an overtly feminist message which does occasionally grate on the senses. It also presents the play as an example of how badly men have treated women. It fails to emphasise that both genders were persecuted; five men were also executed during the trials. Moreover, it appears to disregard three hundred years of social progress that has created a better if far from perfect world. Superstition and paranoia fuelled the witch hunt and wasn’t all about gender politics. Miller’s original play was a reflection of McCarthyism and how irrational fears defeat reason. The play makes its point well enough but lacks sufficient perspective, treading a fine line between analysis and bombast. Nevertheless it remains a creative and engaging piece of theatre.
Written by: Sasha Wilson, further devised by the company
Directed by: Hannah Hauer-King
Produced by: Out of the Forest Theatre
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/thehopetheatre/call-me-fury/e-dayjyr
Booking Until: 5 October 2019