Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Arthur Miller’s classic play is deservedly acclaimed and because it’s such a popular production, over the years I’ve seen it in many guises: decked out in Armani suits and set in an open plan office, dressed 50s style to mirror the McCarthy anticommunist blacklists that Miller’s play so cunningly alludes to…. and, most recently, at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, where some of the events were startlingly framed in the midst of a pool of rising water. So it’s oddly refreshing to witness the Lyceum’s no-gimmicks production, the simple set and period costumes supporting rather than overwhelming Miller’s dazzling text.
And it does dazzle, despite its familiarity, taking off with an incisive, urgent tone that never loses pace as it motors along to its tragic conclusion. The ensemble cast, some twenty actors in total, never put a foot wrong. It’s hard to single out individuals, but Meghan Tyler shines as Abigail Williams, Philip Cairns is perfectly cast as John Proctor and Irene Allan is utterly convincing as poor, doomed Elizabeth Proctor. I liked the simplicity of Michael Taylor’s set with the grey outlines of a forest forever in the background, hinting at the pagan world that surrounds this little outpost of Christianity; and I got chills, exactly as I should, when John Proctor finally refuses to give his name to the document that will save him from hanging.
If you think you’ve already seen everything The Crucible has to offer, think again. When it’s performed with this much panache it’s almost like seeing if for the first time.