David Benedict on theatre

Click to follow
"Good Lord... the man's from Taiwan!" In a collective burst of xenophobia, vast swathes of the British press gasped at the ability of Ang Lee to penetrate the heart of "dear Jane" in his film of Sense and Sensibility.

In fact, a little distance is infinitely desirable. Take the West Yorkshire Playhouse production of Arthur Miller's classic play, The Crucible, directed by young Georgian David Doiashvili. He was one of four directors invited for the theatre's European directors' school earlier this year. Fired up by seeing an uncensored version of the text for the first time, his 20-minute section of the play so impressed artistic director Jude Kelly that she invited him back to direct the entire play.

Olwen May (right) plays the central role of Elizabeth Proctor. "He has a very particular style which some of the cast were a little bewildered by, but I had done the workshop with him, so I knew what to expect. He takes very truthful, naturalistic acting and puts it in a very stylised framework."

Doiashvili emphasises visuals and is very influenced by film. There's a lot of music (some of which features recordings of May singing). "I think he's able to be bolder than a British director would because he's outside the culture. There have been a few textual changes, too, turning the odd dialogue scene into monologue."

Reflecting the youth of the Georgian production team, he is also using a younger cast than normal, which does fascinating things to Miller's ideas about the views of the adults about the hysteria whipped up around the adolescents' tales of sex and the devil. Parts often taken by actors in their fifties are being played by impressive thirtysomethings like Peter Darling. As May puts it, "People will either see it as groundbreaking and brave or absolutely hate it."

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds (0113-244 2111)

Comments