The Crucible

After a gruelling past GCSE drama experience of The Crucible, I’ve always thought Arthur Miller’s play to be a weighty piece of theatre that requires a tenacious attention span. I found this to be true in every production I seen of this particular play and so was hesitant upon arrival at Clermont Church; I was expecting to enter into something that resembled a church hall with a row of chairs leading up to a stage - instead, quite the opposite. The cast were already at work in separating their audience, taking them by the arm and placing them within the action of the play. An unexpected start, but also a promising one. Staging the play as a promenade was original and immediately placed me a position of uncertainty, tension heightened from the start, so that I felt like an outsider witnessing events as if they were reality. It’s a real shame that this energy wasn’t maintained throughout; the play had reached its peak by the end of Act One.

An unexpected start, but also a promising one.

The church provided an eerie and disturbing setting for this production and worked as a great backdrop for the play’s religious elements; however, this meant a majority of the lines were lost in the acoustics of the room. The constant echoing of dialogue became frustrating after a while and if you’re unfamiliar with the script, you would struggle to follow each scene. At least the space enabled a diverse range of set choices, transforming the audience from house to courtroom without any complications or delays.

Lauren Varnfield’s characterisation of Elizabeth Proctor is commendable and engaging from beginning to end, completely carrying the performance; she is of a high calibre and this is obvious in all aspects of her performance. Brief but strong performances from Debbie Bridge and Gill Medway added substance to the subtext of the play and I was captivated by their characterisation in moments of their silence. As for the rest of the cast, I could barely keep track of the amount of times accents were dropped which was very distracting. This, coupled with some miscasting and wooden portrayal made a lot of actions look predetermined and stagey.

Be sure to leave enough time to get to Clermont Church as it’s rather tucked away near Preston Park and also keep in mind that it is two and a half hours long! Pretty Villain Productions took on a rather brave task with The Crucible; with some unique ideas, I have no doubt it would work with a different choice of cast. I would simply recommend it for its one stand out performer and for an audience who would like to experience a different interpretation of a period play. 

Reviews by Lucy Skinner

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Performances

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The Blurb

When the village girls of Salem are discovered dancing in the woods, they turn the accusation of witchcraft back on their accusers. Politically-motivated hysteria grips the town; no one is safe from imprisonment or hanging. One couple struggles to stand above the madness and hold on to the truth. With a growing reputation for its original approach to the production of quality theatre, Pretty Villain bring a promenade approach to Miller’s text that places the audience at the heart of the action.

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