“A person is either with this court or he must be counted against it.”
Selladoor production’s echoing adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible rings through the theatre. With no music and a minimalist set, the growing hysteria running through Salem highlights the recurring impact of religion, politics and capitalism.
Written in 1953, The Crucible (based on the Salem Witch trials) is comparable to the paranoia surrounding 1950s McCarthyism. The selective enforcement that targeted political enemies saw the prosecution of supposed communist. In an attempt to stamp out this social ill, many accusations were based on falsified evidence and intimidation. Anyone unwilling to cooperate with the government and admit guilt were often imprisoned or exiled. The recycled paranoia pervading America showed that even “honourable” men were susceptible to mass hysteria, using their power to sustain it.
The Crucible’s impressive cast, centres around Abigail Williams (Lucy Keirl), Reverend Parris (Cornelius Clarke) and John Proctor (Eoin Slattery). After Parris discovers his niece Abigail, daughter Betty and friends practising witchcraft, the girls admit guilt and accuse other women in Salem for the same crime. The biblical passage, “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” was used by the courts to oversee Gods work by hanging any women accused of consorting with the Devil.
Artistic director, Douglas Rintoul keeps attention on Miller's words rather than the environment. The few props on stage are moved by the cast as the play is based in only four locations. The beginning of the production is set within the church, its wooden walls are solid with little light piercing through. By the second half of the play, the walls are dismantling around the characters as the light illuminates their failings.
The growing conspiracy becomes a pursuit of property and vengeance. The collusion quickly fuels intolerance and weakens societal structures that impact the most vulnerable.
The Crucible is a fine production and remains relevant today. In a climate that has seen the rise of fake news, post truths and alternative facts, it is essential that we are reminded of the repercussions that reverberate from ignorance. If theatre is made to “inform, illuminate, entertain [and] raise awareness” (Michael Billington) then Arthur Miller’s writing certainly does that.