One of the signs of a really good play is that it manages to remain relevant years after it is first performed. Arthur Miller’s timeless 1953 play has done exactly this. As the play develops with untiring intensity it becomes uncomfortably apparent that a lot of the issues explored are still prevalent in today’s society.
The Crucible is based on the Salem witch trials which took place in Massachusetts in the 1690s. The audience watches as the town gets worked into a frenzy after a young girl, Abigail Williams, starts rumours of witchcraft. The townspeople begin turning on each other, accusing innocent people and condemning them to death out of fear for their own lives, desire to deflect suspicion and, more disturbingly, even revenge. People convince themselves of the possible, the bright lights used when the supposed witchcraft takes place working as an effective symbol of the blinding, intense panic of widespread paranoia. Originally, Miller penned the play as a comment on the paranoia surrounding Communism at the time. The comparisons are undeniably jarring. However, the New Theatre’s interpretation called to mind more recent phenomenons.
Much like Salem, at times it felt like we live in a post-truth society. Public opinion and biased media often seem to take precedent over cold hard facts, particularly in times of crisis, like Betty’s bizarre ‘illness’ and the ever-present threat of terrorism we are sadly living with. Watching this play reminded me of the importance of not falling into old ‘witch hunt’ habits, scapegoating and ‘alternative facts’, which are seen to tear the society apart. The minimalistic staging allows the focus to be on these themes as well as the incredible performances of the lead actors. The ending will leave you speechless; it’s not to be missed.