2. Simon Manyonda (John Proctor) and Anoushka Lucas (Elizabeth Proctor) in The Crucible. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

The Crucible @ The Crucible Theatre

Vengeance walks the streets of Salem as Arthur Miller’s classic tale of hysteria, ideology and justice comes to life in mesmeric fashion at its namesake venue.

Local spectators at Sheffield Theatres’ production of The Crucible will instantly recognise the modernist-inspired lightbox overlooking the stage: a scaled-down version of the venue’s iconic signage, providing a present-day reference point in a play that transports you back 300-plus years to the stark setting of Salem, Massachusetts.

Fittingly, this austere and foreboding environment is reflected in a decidedly minimal set. Adding to the intimate atmosphere, various lighting techniques and props are used throughout to great effect: house lights snapping on whenever the fourth wall is broken, directly addressing the audience as though they were extended members of the community; the intermittent use of a microphone passing hands as characters fight to be heard loudest above a din of righteous chaos; and dark, hellish reds depicting the mounting hysteria and ever-lurking presence of evil.

L-R Laura Pyper, Geoffrey Aymer, Sid Sagar, Rose Shalloo, Andrew Macbean, Mark Weinman, Alexandra Mathie, Honor Kneafsey. Photo: Manuel Harlan

In an interview prior to opening night, Simon Manyonda told Exposed Magazine that he “wanted to understand the human folly at the heart of the play”. His powerful portrayal of John Proctor, a man fiercely resisting a growing tide of derangement while grappling with his own moral redemption, brilliantly illustrates the range of human experience on display and is gripping to watch from beginning to end.

The perfect foil to an exasperated and increasingly irate John Proctor is Anoushka Lucas’s Elizabeth Proctor. Humble, stoic and wise, her character epitomises the ultimate undeserving victim amidst the vengeful accusations cast around the town.

Anoushka Lucas (Elizabeth Proctor) and Simon Manyonda (John Proctor). Photo: Manuel Harlan.

While the Proctors’ plight takes centre stage, there are stellar portrayals throughout the cast. Sargon Yelda is the embodiment of spineless self-interest as Reverend Parris, Rose Shalloo plays a girlish but deeply vindictive Abigail Williams and Sid Sagar’s Reverend Hale displays a hugely affecting transformation from dangerous self-aggrandiser to the town’s voice of conscience, leading impassioned pleas for reason and mercy from Ian Drysdale’s cold and dogmatic Danforth.

Combining Miller’s timeless writing on structural power and the exploitation of fear – equally relevant today as during the McCarthy era – with bold, innovative direction from Anthony Lau and a multitude of compelling performances, the result is a transfixing experience that prompts audiences to reflect on modern-day instances of political scare-mongering, persecution and manufactured hysteria. These sobering thoughts linger long after leaving beneath the original Crucible sign overlooking Tudor Square.

5/5

 




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