The Crucible

In the face of something terrible, we can either laugh or cry. For the audience watching John Dove’s new production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the apparent choice is – more often than not – to laugh. Not least as the simplest and most logical defences against accusations of witchcraft are twisted into proof of guilt and murderous condemnation. But is the audience laughing from a “Horrible Histories” sense of moral superiority over simpler folk in simpler times? Or is it because – despite the play’s 17th century setting and the McCarthyism under which it was written – this remains a consistently contemporary work? Sadly, it’s not entirely clear.

arguably, it’s the pinnacle in the Royal Lyceum’s celebratory 50th anniversary season – with a cast of 19 on stage to prove it.

That this is a big show, though, there’s no doubt; arguably, it’s the pinnacle in the Royal Lyceum’s celebratory 50th anniversary season – with a cast of 19 on stage to prove it. Yet, while most scenes require Dove to choreograph no more than half-a-dozen characters at a time, he repeatedly acts like some Renaissance painter, placing his cast in relatively static poses within Michael Taylor’s bare-boned set. While this tableaux approach helps focus our attention on Miller’s words, that carries its own risk. It’s a slight exaggeration to say that the cast offer more American accents than there were British colonies in the Americas during the times the play is set, but it’s sufficiently true to nevertheless prove distracting.

The casting is also somewhat unbalanced; although something of an ensemble piece, the role of “good man” John Proctor nevertheless does require a level of charisma and inner strength that Philip Cairns just seems to lack. In scene after scene, he is overshadowed by either the quiet dignity of Irene Allan as his wife Elizabeth, or the suppressed fury of Maghan Tyler as spurned lover Abigail Williams.

Just like Nature, any drama abhors a vacuum, which is why this production’s attention consequently shifts onto, firstly, the excellent Richard Conlon as the Reverend John Hale – the minister from outside town whose evidence-based approach to witchcraft is fascinating for all the wrong reasons. Conlon fully grasps the dramatic opportunities arising from his character’s own belated awakening to the folly of what’s happening as the number of hangings rises – and creates a fuller, rounder human being than might first be expected of the man. Secondly, there’s Ron Donachie as Deputy Governor Danforth; he only appears in the second half, but is a huge presence, both physically and dramatically. It’s difficult not to take your eyes off Donachie as a performer; it’s equally hard not to be horrified by the certainty of Danforth’s statement that “who is not with us is against us”.

There’s little doubt that The Crucible is a play that still has a lot to tell us about ourselves, and how we must constantly guard against fear, anger and the abuse of power by those who find themselves in authority. It’s a shame, however, that the motor of this particular production is, for the most part, barely ticking over.

Reviews by Paul Fisher Cockburn


One of Two

Scottish Storytelling Centre

Moira in Lockdown

Laughing Horse @ Bar 50

Love and Sex on the Spectrum

Royal Lyceum Theatre

Mrs Puntila And Her Man Matti


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

“I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil!”

When young women are discovered trying to conjure spirits, the God-fearing people of Salem, Massachusetts are told the devil is in their midst and must be rooted out at all costs. Accusations fly, scores are settled, and fear and suspicion reign. With terrifying power and momentum their faith becomes a murderous instrument of lust, paranoia and revenge.

Written during Joe McCarthy’s anticommunist trials in America, this classic tale of the witch hunts in colonial New England still stands as a powerful parable against the politics of fear.

Following huge acclaim for All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Price and A View from the Bridge, John Dove returns to direct The Crucible, completing The Lyceum’s acclaimed journey through the best loved works of Arthur Miller.

Most Popular See More

The Lion King

From £35.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets