It’s that grey jacket again for Richard Armitage at the stage door last night
— Mercedes Underwood (@mercedesphere) July 27, 2014
So yesterday I went to see the Crucible at the Old Vic, with Richard Armitage. It was superb and the entire cast deserved the standing ovation they got. I also went to the sealife centre and made friends with all the rays :D as you do.
Managed to get snapshots from the videos, woo! Check out the adoring gaze in the first one haha.
Stage door -25th July
God is dead!
I have no words. This was, without a doubt, the most amazing production I have ever seen!
Every single one of the actors were just unbelievable. I personally felt that it took them few minutes to properly get into the characters, but once they did they were just flawless. My favourite point in…
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Performed at the Old Vic Theatre, London
23rd July 2014, Matinee
It seemed like a lifetime ago when I studied the Crucible, a play set during the Salem Witch Trials in 1690s Massachusetts, briefly just before GCSE Drama, when in reality it was just over five years ago. I also thought I would never have the opportunity to see the play being staged in the West End, but I was lucky enough to see this particular production, directed by the award winning Yäel Farber and being staged at the Old Vic Theatre in London.
For those who are not familiar with the plot of the Crucible, a rather extended metaphor for the McCarthyism the United States was suffering during the time Miller was writing the play, I shall explain – it centres on a farmer, John Proctor (Richard Armitage in this production, best known for his role as Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s the Hobbit), after his former lover Abigail Williams (Samantha Colley) points the finger and declares his wife Elizabeth (Anna Madeley) to be in league with the Devil and being a witch.
What first struck me when sitting in the theatre waiting for the show to begin was the minimal use of stage space and scenery - it was being performed in the round, which would ultimately make the play far more immersive, and only using the bare essentials for the show – chairs, a bed, a table and a couple of other things – really made the audience focus on the performance rather than having their minds wandering, going “oooh that [bit of scenery] looks pretty”, and it worked incredibly well by the time the show had actually started. Everything was Spartan, fitting in with the Puritan religious undertones of the time –the costumes, the set, the props – nothing felt unnecessary.
It jilted me at first, but the director’s choice of not having the actors speak in an American accent was surely a creative choice – the Northern accents made the whole play feel closer to home for a British audience and thus giving more of an impact towards the subject matter. We had our own witch trials here, and I almost forgot that it was set in Salem, if it was not for the infrequent references to the town itself.
The acting itself, was on the whole, absolutely fantastic. The standouts had to go to Richard Armitage – I’ve always deemed it a pleasure to see him act on screen every time, but to see him on stage after a ten year absence was certainly something else -, the young Samantha Colley, fresh out of drama school, Anna Madeley who brought a tenderness to a character I never cared for when reading the play, and also Adrian Schiller (Reverend John Hale) and William Gaunt (Giles Corey). The acting by the ensemble of twenty-four was raw, visceral and the physicality of the possession scenes especially were absolutely terrifying – it could have looked as if it had come from a horror film. Which I see as a good thing – the Salem Witch Trials was a terrible time, with numerous innocents dying and the physicality really got that tone right for it. However, I felt that Michael Thomas – Reverend Parris – could have been better, despite myself recognizing that Reverend Parris was quite a weak character to begin with. Natalie Gavin (Mary Warren) was a bit too quiet for us up in the Lillian Baylis Circle, but I am sure the audience in the lower tiers would have been able to hear her fine enough.
One thing most people have complained about is the three-and-a-half hour run time, which can feel like it can drag, especially when you consider how quickly something such as Les Miserables, at three hours can pass by. I do not see it as a problem though – it means there is a proper devotion to the source material and it means it is not completely cut down to the bare bones – I would not however, recommend this particular production to anyone who has short attention spans, as it certainly is a play where you need to pay attention throughout in case you miss something. The only thing I can really complain about is the amount of shouting there was – it makes watching the production quite tiring sometimes, and the sheer volume can unfortunately take away some of the words – some words and phrases were lost on us because we simply could not understand what they were saying because they were shouting; it was a consistent problem, but to their credit, they did not have microphones like they do for musicals.
Overall, this is an incredible production and a spectacular piece of theatre. I predict that it will do very well during the theatre awards season – potentially seeing several Olivier Award nominations to Ms. Farber, Mr. Armitage, for Best Play (I believe the biggest rival will be Richard III, currently at the Trafalgar Studios and starring Armitage’s Hobbit co-star Martin Freeman) and possibly for Ms. Colley. If you want to see a production that has all the intensity of the source material, I would look no further, as this really does do justice to such a dark and harrowing text.
links to all The Crucible reviews - updated (July 24)
I’ve updated the previous list with new and omitted reviews.
All additions are preceded by §
All 5-star reviews are preceded by *
July 24, 2014
§ Huffington Post (a second review): here - 'utterly bewitching'
July 23, 2014
§ London SE1 community website : here - 'in the right hands, it is one of the most powerful plays you can see on stage…and of course it is in the right hands'
§ The One Ring.net (blog): here - 'it's a great role for Armitage, and a wonderful chance to see him on stage, in a compelling production'
July 18, 2014
Teaching Drama (blog): here - 'a heartening piece of pure drama'
July 17, 2014
The Arbuturiam: here - 'it's absolutely worth it and a genuine privilege to witness'
Huffington Post: here - 'I was completely enwrapped in this very dramatic but also moving production'
Metro: (not available online, but scan below)
*Open Platforms (blog): here - 'it is a raw and honest portrayal of a man exposed for all the wrong reasons'
§ *Sosogay: here - 'fiery and passionate, Richard Armitage leads the spectacular ensemble cast with a raw, exciting edge….one of the best productions we've ever seen at The Old Vic - don't miss it'
July 16, 2014
§ Best of Theatre: here - ‘I don’t expect to see a finer performance this year’
Wall Street Journal: here - ‘Yaël Farber’s staging of The Crucible lets Miller’s original intent shine’
July 14, 2014
§ Cherwell: here - 'Farber's production never fails - it is as Hale suggests: strange, chilling, earth-shattering'
*The Jewish Chronicle: here - 'Farber makes Miller's tale more powerful than ever'
Londonist: here - 'fighting the darkness in The Crucible'
July 13, 2014
Sunday Express: here - 'Armitage is the rocklike centre of Yaël Farber’s revelatory production'
§ The Sunday Times: here (behind paywall), full review here (courtesy of did-you-make-these-bunssss) - ‘Richard Armitage’s imposing Proctor knows how to use the heft of his shoulders and his story eyes’
*Mail on Sunday: (not available online, but scan below)
Hoff Po UK: “The most passionately intense performance of The Crucible I’ve ever seen”