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The Crucible  artwork

All About Theatre four star review

The latest revival of Arthur miller's 1953 classic the crucible, is ironically taking place at Sheffield's Crucible theatre. The play is set in 1692 Massachusetts and is based on the events of the infamous Salem witch trials. Miller actually wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the US government prosecuted people accused of being communists.

A young woman lies slumped on a table. At the end of the table, a group of people look confused and concerned. A man speaks into a microphone and reassures the group.

The play is directed by Anthony Lou and it tells the story of a feuding community which is griped by fear and hysteria. This has been caused by rumours of witchcraft being practiced by members of the community. When a group of young girls are found dancing and chanting in the forest by Reverend Parris, they are accused of which craft. Abigail Williams (Reverend Parris's niece) had convinced the girls to help her put a curse on Elizabeth Procter, the wife of the man she had once had an affair with and still has feelings for. Parris invites Reverend John Hale, an expert in witchcraft and demonology, to come and investigate. The girls at first deny their involvement in witchcraft but when Reverend Parris threatens to whip to death his Barbadian slave Tituba, Tituba then falsely claims that the Devil is bewitching her and others in town. With prompting Tituba accuses some of the women in the community of witchcraft, Abigail decides to play along with Tituba in order to prevent others from discovering her affair with Proctor, whose wife she had tried to curse out of jealousy. Abigail leaps up, begins contorting wildly, and names more women from the community as having been "dancing with the devil". Hale orders the arrest of the named people and sends for judges to try them.

A couple are glaring at each other as they have a conversation. They wear organic, linen clothing and are surrounded by milk churns filled with flowers.

We then move to the Proctor's farm where we meet John and Elizabeth Proctor, they are in the fallout of John's affair and are dealing with their relationship problems privately. Elizabeth has been accused of witchcraft by Abigale and is arrested. John must decide whether to reveal his affair with Abigale in order to save his wife. John does reveal his affair but when Elizabeth is asked if it is true she denies it in order to save her husband's reputation. John himself ends up getting arrested and at the end of the play he must decide whether to admit to something he has not done and live or tell the truth and be put to death.

A group of people are gathered as in a courtroom. A young woman stands on a stack of chairs and holds an empty cup in the air. People around look dazed and outraged. Above, a huge white block reading CRUCIBLE is illuminated.

The costumes are of the period in which the play is set, and they are neutral in colour being mostly grey or black. The set designed by Georgia Lowe is very simple and the stage is quite bare, there are just a few rows of tiered seating at the back of the stage, there are some stacked chairs and a couple of tables. Very few props are used but for one scene which takes place in the Procter's field lots of milk churns filled with flowers are brought on to the stage, these flowers were the only bit of colour in the play. I think the simplicity of the set allowed us to focus much more on the characters and their stories. I did enjoy the large crucible sign, which was suspended at the back of the stage, this was a replica of the sign on the front of the theatre, and it was used as part of Jess Bernberg's lighting design as at key point in the play it would flicker with light or change colour. I thought the overall lighting design was affective and help to enhance the storytelling and combined with Giles Thomas's sound design really helped to create the tense atmosphere. I thought the use of microphones was an interesting choice and they helped to increase the tension at certain points in the play.

Milk was used a lot in the play and seemed to have an important role, I first thought that it might be a substitute for blood, but I have since found out that it is supposed to serve as a reminder of the cows which were left wondering Salem after the towns Witch trials.

A group of people are gathered as in a courtroom. A young woman stands on a stack of chairs as if on trial. People stand around and look up at her. Above, a huge white block reading CRUCIBLE is illuminated

It was the incredibly talented cast which made the show for me as the acting skills of this cast were just fantastic. All the cast were amazing but stand out performers for me were Simon Manyonda & Anoushka Lucas who play Jhon & Elizabeth Proctor, the two of them had great chemistry and both gave strong, powerful and passionate performances. I also loved Rose Shallo who played the sinister young ringleader Abigail Williams as I thought she gave a confident performance.

A couple sit on the floor together and press their foreheads together with love. They are lit behind by a huge white illuminated block.

I really enjoyed this production of the Crucible; I have never seen the Crucible before so I can't compare it with any previous productions, but the story had me on the edge of my seat and I just couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next. The play is very well written with complex characters which you can really relate to and so you care about the characters, and you care about what's going to happen to them. The play is essentially about morality, what's right and wrong, it's about the justice system and it's also a bit of a love story. So, grab yourself a ticket you won't be disappointed.

The Crucible is running at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield until Saturday 30th March 2024 you can purchase tickets by clicking on the button below.

If you would like more information about the play, you can find it by clicking on the button below.

Photo Credit - Manuel Harlan

*Our tickets for this show were kindly gifted in exchange for an honest review


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