A word from the director

 

The Crucible is the first play I ever read. I was at school and lucky enough to have a great English Literature teacher who transported me to New England 

and I was captivated in a way that, until then, only film had ever managed to do. 30 years on, the idea of staging The Crucible was a bit of an offhand suggestion, but it seemed to gain immediate traction with the artistic team – as a result I became more and more excited about the prospect of directing the play every time I wrote or talked about it. 

Several months later, the commitment was made and I started work. I was lucky enough to get on board a terrific production team and then assemble an amazing cast who have all worked extremely hard to present to you our interpretation this evening. Miller’s Crucible was inspired by the ‘un-American’ investigations of the 1950s. Known as ‘McCarthyism’ this process was a paranoid hunt for ‘Communist’ infiltrators and was notoriously brutal in its treatment of writers and entertainers. Many were unable to continue working, some had their passports confiscated, while others were jailed for refusing to give the names of other Communists. The trials destroyed careers with a single unsubstantiated accusation.

These were the events that inspired Arthur Miller to dig deep into the events of Salem and though his interest in the comparisons between the 1692  trials and McCarthyism began with his own experience, it was the horrific nature of the trials themselves which motivated him to write The Crucible in 1952.

I’m grateful he did. Otherwise I may never have got involved in theatre.

 

Paul Johnson: Director

 

Cast List

Betty Parris – Polly Johnson

Reverend Parris – Clive Weatherley

Tituba– Cassie Solola

Abigail Williams – Pamela Self-Pierson

Susannah Walcott – Milly Gladstone

Ann Putnam – Alyssa Upton

Thomas Putnam – Richard Parsley

Mercy Lewis – Roseanna Connolly

Mary Warren – Carrie-Lee Stevens

John Proctor – Steve Hannam

Rebecca Nurse – Jane Miles

Giles Corey – Paul Stephenson

Reverend Hale – Mitchell Rous

Elizabeth Proctor– Petrova Simpson

Francis Nurse – Alan Jones

Ezekiel Cheever – Richard Munns

Marshal Herrick –Bart Brockbank

Judge Hathorne – Andy Prangnell

Judge Danforth – Barry Bowen

Sarah Good – Sarah Wiggins

 

Review: Your Harlow. April 2014

 

Date posted: 22/4/15

By Siobhan Wood

 

THE Crucible is a play written by Arthur Miller to compare investigations in 1950s America with the Salem witch trials in 1692. Paul Johnson directed the Harlow Theatre Company’s version at The Victoria Hall and it managed to be funny and tense while balancing the portrayal of intimate human relationships with a high energy rabble in the perfectly executed (no pun intended) crowd scenes.

It can take a while to settle into a story but very early on it felt as though it had clicked into place and the characters were believable and human. What I enjoyed the most about The Crucible was how at times there would be eight to eleven actors on stage and never did anyone fade into the scenery or slip out of character; right from the start they all contributed actively, even when the scene didn’t focus on them, such as at the very beginning with Pamela Self-Pierson as Abigail Williams stealing illicit glances at John Proctor and Alyssa Upton as Ann Putnam rolling her eyes. I loved the energy of the play and looked forward to the arrival of new characters, who all burst through the door with news and the energy to drive the action forward.

There was lashings of humour in the delivery and the audience laughed throughout, with great chemistry between the actors, such as when Ann Putnam says to her husband, played by Richard Parsley: “Mr Putnam, stand close in case she flies.” I felt that considering the sad situation Elizabeth Proctor was in, Petrova Simpson’s brilliant portrayal of her didn’t take the easy route and play her as weak and downtrodden – there was sarcasm and strength in the delivery of some lines that made me laugh out loud. Giles Corey, played by Paul Stephenson, was a funny character, particularly when talking of his wife’s habit of reading books: “It discomforts me!”

I was drawn to Reverend Parris, played by Clive Weatherley, from the very beginning due to his stage presence and enjoyed watching his character change from seemingly pleasant enough to patronising as the play went on. Steve Hannam gave a powerful performance as John Proctor and I particularly enjoyed his delivery of the wonderful dialogue between him and Elizabeth Proctor, when he tells her that “an everlasting funeral marches around your heart.” I found Rebecca Nurse, played by Jane Miles, the most likeable character and enjoyed her endearing performance as someone who sensibly was unfazed by the secret dancing in the forest and who stuck to her morals to the very end. Alan Jones as Francis Nurse was very expressive and the sadness in his face at his wife’s predicament was moving.

Carrie-Lee Stevens as Mary Warren also made me laugh when she tried pushing the boundaries with John Proctor after being elevated to a higher position in society as part of the trial, but quickly concluded that she did in fact wish to go to bed rather than sit up with him and Elizabeth Proctor. Bart Brockbank’s portrayal of the sauntering, drunken Marshal Herrick and Sarah Wiggins as the cider-craving Sarah Good were very entertaining.

Richard Munns as Ezekiel Cheever bought balance to his scenes as someone who appeared able to only utter the truth and say what he sees in a world where everyone else seems to be twisting the truth for their own gain. Reverend Hale, played by Mitchell Rous, was another seemingly serious and genuine character but he had an element of the type of modern-day vampire hunter you would see in movies and made me laugh with the line: “But the devil is a wily one, you cannot deny it.”

The ear piercing screeches throughout the play were a reminder that the whole ordeal was based on the accusation of young girls, albeit manipulative ones. Cassie Solola as Tituba further emphasised this point, seeming sweet despite the claims made against her but quickly turning the other girls’ betrayal towards her into accusations towards others. Polly Johnson was convincing as Betty Parris, the girl at the heart of everything, and it was revealing to watch the way her, Susannah Walcott, played by Milly Gladstone, and Mercy Lewis, played by Roseanna Connolly, interacted with Abigail; they were great in the suspenseful scene where they are repeating Mary Warren’s sentences in an attempt to frame her. Pamela Self-Pierson played Abigail Williams excellently as a villain and dangerous ringleader.

I particularly enjoyed the court scenes, which were like a live episode of The Thick Of It crossed with a costume drama. Andy Prangnell as the cool Judge Hathorne and Barry Bowen as the stern, unflinching and stage-dominating Judge Danforth were another highlight and this to me was when the play reached its peak, with a floor full of great characters complimenting the thought provoking dialogue and plot shifts.

The set worked well, turning from a homely bedroom to a barn and more without losing believability and the costumes, lighting and music between scenes all worked together to create an authentic experience. It was fun to see subtle cues in the costumes, which became more bedraggled as the story spiralled and more lives were put on the line.

I felt the play was framed well with some suitably creepy elements, starting with the opening music and finishing with Elizabeth Proctor when she unnervingly closes the play. The show ended to thunderous applause and it deserved it, as I enjoyed every scene and the atmosphere, particularly in the scenes which involved lots of characters, was highly charged and The Crucible was hugely entertaining.