Review Roundup: THE CRUCIBLE at Old Vic
Yaël Farber directs a visceral re-imagining of Arthur Miller's modern American masterpiece, The Crucible, at Old Vic, which began previews on June 24. Miller used his play about the Salem witch trials to draw parallels with his experience of McCarthy's anti-communist investigations in the 1950's. The Crucible tells the story of one man's fight to save his identity in a repressive Puritan community where intolerance collides with lust and superstition, fueling widespread hysteria with tragic results.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: "Farber makes the play feel urgent and immediate - and does so by refusing to hurry. The action's wilful slowness is often exhilarating, and the performances pulse with bruising physicality...Although a running time of more than three and a half hours sounds daunting, The Crucible is an absorbing and ultimately devastating experience. It taxes the mind but also spears you in the guts."
Paul Taylor, Independent: "Farber's revival brings the nightmare madness home to us with an extraordinary physical intensity, a masterly feel for the different emotional rhythms in Miller's scenes and a tension that is brilliantly sustained over the show's three-and-a-half hours running time."
Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph: "In her thrilling production at the Old Vic, which lasts three and a half hours but never loosens its dramatic grip, the South African director Yaël Farber doesn't labour the point but trusts the audience to make its own connections with our own troubled times. The drama is staged with a mixture of simplicity and dramatic power that builds up an ominous feeling of dread and fear. As a result this harrowing play achieves the intensity of a thriller, as the girls under the malign spell of their ringleader Abigail Williams (a memorably sinister Samantha Colley), accuses countless decent people in the village of witchcraft. Only gradually does it become clear that Abigail has her own motives for revenge."
Dominic Maxwell, The Times: "I've seen Arthur Miller's great play many times before, but it has never mesmerised and moved me quite like Yaël Farber's revival manages to do here. This South African director won worldwide acclaim two years ago with Mies Julie, in which she relocated Strindberg's classic to her homeland in the present day. Here, she stays faithful to Miller's text and to his setting of the Salem witch trials in 1692 Massachusetts."
Michael Billington, Guardian: "Productions of Arthur Miller's re-creation of the Salem witch hunt tend to be as flinty and hard-edged as the author's prose. But the South African Yaël Farber, director of an acclaimed Mies Julie, has come up with an extraordinary production that preserves the integrity of Miller's language while investing the action with a raw, visceral power I've never witnessed."
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail: "It is a necessarily claustrophobic story, never easy to watch. You do not go to The Crucible for enjoyment - certainly not here, where director Yael Farber's time-keeping has run out of control. At Wednesday's preview we escaped just before 11pm. Long-winded Miss Farber obviously has little regard for theatregoers who catch trains to the suburbs. The glacial pace of her direction may create an oppressive atmosphere but it goes far beyond self-indulgence."
Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage: "Yaël Farber's strident and mostly gripping production starts slowly and ritualistically... John Proctor, played with gallant good looks and some physical power by Richard Armitage... Tim Lutkin's lighting sculpts it in startling silhouette. But Armitage's hoarseness - he strains against his own vocal chords - becomes increasingly monotonous... Soon, everyone's shouting their heads off as if their lives depended on it; this proves a poor way of counter-balancing the rigid, almost hierarchical staging of the comings and goings through the circular arena, where some artful scene changes in Soutra Gilmour's design slow down the evening (well over three-and-a-half hours long) even more... It's a very strong evening, especially in the tragic renewal of the Proctors' marriage. But a lot of the noise is too hollow to hurt, too blustery to burn."
Photo Credit: Johan Persson