The Crucible on the Nationwide Theatre evaluate: Erin Doherty lights up the stage

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rthur Miller’s 1953 examine of public vilification and herd behaviour feels freshly related in Lyndsey Turner’s manufacturing. Erin Doherty, a miraculous actress nonetheless greatest recognized for enjoying the younger Princess Anne in The Crown, is riveting as Abigail Williams, the woman whose spurned affections spark a literal witch hunt in Massachusetts in 1692. Australian actor Brendan Cowell is charismatic however oddly fashionable as John Proctor, the respectable however flawed man she wishes and destroys.

It’s offered on a stylised set by Es Devlin, a sloped platform, mirrored by an ominous slab of sunshine above, hemmed on three sides by sporadic curtains of rain and echoing with non secular chant. As an alternative of the same old puritan garb, the ladies on this American colony put on Laura Ashley-esque frocks, the boys blue and khaki workwear that wouldn’t look misplaced in a Shoreditch maker’s market at present.

Honest sufficient. Miller used the historic Salem trials, the place younger ladies accused their elders of satanism, as an allegory for McCarthyite persecution of Hollywood liberals. In our faux information period, any variety of cultish truth-deniers match the narrative.

Johan Persson

The script is as precision-tooled as a machine; there’s nothing spare, although it runs for 3 hours. Seventy years in the past, Miller invented an idiom {that a} multilingual group or European settlers in America may need used, and it nonetheless sounds fluent and evocative. The play’s ethical thrust stays forceful. The falsely accused cling to their names or their honesty. The zealots press on as a result of they will’t admit they’re incorrect.

Doherty’s Abigail isn’t on stage a lot however she lights up the present together with her searing conviction when she is. There may be pretty work from Eileen Walsh as Proctor’s harrowed spouse Elizabeth, Fisayo Akinade because the troubled priest John Hale, and Karl Johnson because the combative farmer Giles Corey. Cowell may be powerfully transferring as Proctor, however there’s one thing about his loose-limbed, truck-driver physicality that jars.

The Crucible isn’t fully unproblematic in 2022. Miller used a historic story about younger ladies to critique highly effective males. Proctor is idealized, Abigail is slut-shamed.

The Nationwide can’t escape criticism both: this manufacturing was delayed for per week by the dying of the Queen. It was high-handedly rescheduled in a manner that disrupted many different theatres’ plans. However the play stays a bona fide basic; at all times the identical, at all times new. And Turner’s manufacturing rolls over us with the remorseless, implacable intent of a bulldozer.

Nationwide Theatre to November 5; nationaltheatre.com


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