The Crucible

The Crucible’s traditional essence and fervent temper is kept in tact by Michael Gow but given a fresh angle that borders on a thin line between clever and awkward.

Queensland Theatre Company
Playhouse, QPAC, Brisbane??

Saturday 21 October, 2009

The Crucible’s
traditional essence and fervent temper is kept in tact by Michael Gow but given a fresh angle that borders on a thin line between clever and awkward.

Gow and the team faithfully delivered Arthur Miller’s timeless play while peculiarly injecting a comical side to the tale. Some audience members laughed at the unconventional delivery of certain lines while I wondered why we would be laughing at such sinister circumstances. But aside from that the show was a stand-out with brilliant performances from some well-known faces. It deserved a standing ovation that unfortunately Saturday night’s audience was reluctant to give.

The Crucible is set during the Salem witch trials that took place in the 1600s and focuses on a myriad of social and human issues. It has been said Miller wrote the play in 1953 as a response to McCarthyism when the US government blacklisted accused communists.

A group of naïve (or evil) young girls, who are caught dancing in the woods by the local Priest, Reverend Parris, cause uproar and suspicion in the town of Salem. What starts as a story to cover their tracks, soon becomes a tale of the devil and witchcraft that lands many innocent community members in court facing trial. The foolish finger-pointing becomes an evil prosecution based on fear and personal gain. The victim’s choice? Confess or be hanged. At the heart of the chaos is a wicked young woman Abigail Williams, played by Francesca Savige, and a model citizen with a dark secret John Proctor, played by Andrew Buchanan. Once lovers, John spends his time trying to keep the persistent Abigail at a distance, while reconciling with his wife Elizabeth, played by Andrea Moor. Revenge, fear, pride and religion are just some of the turbulent elements that make up this gripping story.

Andrew Buchanan as John Proctor was a shining star as the strong-willed man who suffers from self-doubt, but is resilient throughout his ordeal. His intense stage presence drew the audience into the world of Salem, creating that special (and somewhat rare) dimension of theatre that causes the viewer to forget about their own life and enter somebody else’s. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Buchanan and Moor was unconvincing. While this was disappointing, the show steered away from concentrating on their tense relationship, and rather focused on the character of the Salem community itself, so the lack of passion was not significantly missed.

The young James Stewart at first seemed unsuitable to play the role of Reverend Hale, but what he lacked in age he made up for with maturity and gifted acting. Hale is called upon to diagnose a girl who appears to have fallen ill after dancing in the woods. Stewart’s dramatic change from a naively zealous leader to a heart-broken soul was hauntingly honest. The rising star, who currently features on the TV series Packed to the Rafters, showed he is more than just a pretty face and is headed for a great future as an actor.

Paul Bishop completely transformed himself into the selfish and senseless holy man of Salem, Reverend Parris. His stuttering movements and painfully stiff face induced passionate feelings from the audience that gradually morphed from pity into hatred.
Robert Coleby was wickedly cold as Deputy-Governor Danforth and succeeded in chilling the audience with his severe narrow-mindedness. He was magic to watch as he calmly but brutally threw his authority upon those on trial.

Abigail Williams was somewhat in the background of this production and as a result Savige made little impact. Abigail’s presence was not as powerful as I have seen before nor as influential as I believe her to be in the story.

Tony Brumpton’s spine-chilling sounds guided the tension and successfully intensified the drama.

This four Act, three-hour production will not have you squirming in your seat and you won’t check your watch once during this transfixing classic piece of theatre.

Bookings on 136 246

Until the 14th of November.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *