The Crucible, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, review: Zapped into life by a great cast

It is hard not to feel fury at Salem's descent into collective madness

Jonathan Brown
Friday 03 October 2014 11:52
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Kate Phillips as Abigail Williams and Martin Marquez as John Proctor
Kate Phillips as Abigail Williams and Martin Marquez as John Proctor

The activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee must seem like ancient history to younger audiences, probably even a lot of older ones too.

Yet witch-hunts, fundamentalist lunacy and personal vengeance remain all too starkly alive in many aspects of the modern world.

Still, by choosing The Crucible – one of the American exam texts set to disappear from the school syllabus allegedly at the behest of British-literature-loving former Education Secretary Michael Gove - Playhouse artistic director James Brining could be accused perhaps of playing a little safe.

And as the opening scene of Arthur Miller's McCarthy-era classic played out disjointedly in the cavernous surroundings it seemed like it might be a night of missed opportunity.

But the play is zapped into life by the presence of Martin Marquez's John Proctor and Daniel Poyser’s Reverend Hale.

The two men begin their slow dance towards mutual understanding around the bedside of the comatose daughter of a disappointingly ponderous and muffled Reverend Parris. The finest scenes however are those involving Proctor and his wife Elizabeth played by an ethereal Susie Trayling.

At the end of the first act as she is led away in chains it is hard not to feel fury and fear at Salem's descent into collective madness.

In the second half when Elizabeth chooses to lie rather than betray her husband we are again witness to horror as the vestiges of love and humanity are crushed beneath a juggernaut of state-sponsored hysteria.

To 25 October

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