Review: The Crucible

KATY KING: 'Those who have bought tickets hoping to see a play they have studied come to life will not be disappointed'.

Tuesday 9th – Saturday 13th, 7.45, ADC.  £6-9.

Directed by Josh Seymour. 

As a popular GCSE set text, The Crucible is a play that will always guarantee healthy ticket sales. True to form, the entire run had already sold out before the first performance had begun.  Those who have bought tickets hoping to see a play they have studied come to life will not be disappointed by this production.

Exceptional theatre can transport you somewhere else and envelope you in a world that is not your own. This production certainly did that, conveying the Salem witchcraft trails with conviction and confidence. Unfortunately, patchy direction held it back from the five star mark. Scenes that involved more than four cast members had a tendency to drag and the actors often hovered in a circle, moving forward towards the audience to deliver a line. That said, the directorial choice to seat all cast at the side of the stage in full view of the audience was inspired, creating a sense of a courtroom throughout the production, as if the performance itself was a trial. At one point when all the seated actors chanted in fevered whispers, the effect was truly haunting.

The set’s interesting use of fairy lights and a bold light up stage, reminiscent of a Dan Flavin instillation, was let down by an incoherent ripped backdrop and “Changing Rooms” style biblical commandments stencilled on the floor. The costume design was beautifully simple with forties style dresses and shirts in beautiful pastels and soft greys that were somehow perfectly puritan. James Walker’s full-length matrix style leather coat did look slightly out of place.

While the acting was largely of a high standard for a small minority first night nerves and struggles to sustain a consistent accent meant more than a few fluffed lines. The stand out performance was the truly mesmerizing Sophie Crawford, making her Cambridge theatre scene debut, as Elizabeth Proctor. Her nuanced performance was utterly convincing and entirely free from the vanity that often accompanies leading ladies. Cambridge acting veteran, James Walker, did not disappoint, with a steady and thoughtful portrayal of the tragic John Proctor. Tom Ovens also deserves a special mention for his impeccable comic timing, adding some light relief to a largely grim storyline.

The audience was noticeably more town than gown, and they certainly got a bargain. For the quarter of the price of an Arts Theatre ticket, they were treated to a number of performances that would have been comfortable on the West End stage. Delivering everything you would expect from a well-rehearsed, well-funded and well-cast ADC mainshow, this production was a solid piece of student drama that simply needed a little more imaginative direction to make it magic.

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