The Crucible by Arthur Miller 29th March to 1st April 2017
A period masterpiece for our modern problems
Arthur Millers the Crucible, although
set during the Salem witch trials was written in 1953 as a way to highlight McCarthyism and the persecution of those believed to be communists. These “witch-hunts” that went on tore apart friends and families an
d ruined lives. Although politics was not my intention when I first decide that I wanted to direct this production, I cannot help but notice history somewhat repeating itself in America today and the poignancy of this story is more relevant than ever.
I was first introduced to the play when I was in college and we had to do a work placement in a theatre (yes I’m a drama geek and proud of it). My local community theatre at the time were doing The Crucible and it was being directed by my college tutor so timing was perfect. I met a lot of friends (who I still speak to today) while working on that production. The casting was fantastic, the story moving and the set and costume simple but powerful. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and although it’s been nearly 8 years since this production I’ve always loved it and I’m so excited to be given the chance to direct it now.
PTC are very well known in Nottingham and they have a large following. My previous directing excursion with PTC a few years ago with a lesser known play hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped and so I was both thrilled to get another opportunity and also overwhelmed by the response I got the second time round. Over 40 people audition and there was so much talent there that I could have cast the production twice over and it still been an amazing show. As you can imagine the casting decisions were a nightmare and I’m glad I didn’t have to do it alone. My Assistant Director Sally Nix and I with the help of our panel had to make some very tough decisions, some of the choices we didn’t all agree on and we had to turn down so many very talented people. However, the end result I think will be well worth it.
So what’s the story about? Well in a small town in seventeenth century America Puritan settlers have made a home for themselves. Bringing with them their strict way of life and Christian values. Believing in the fear of God and the community, they worked together to build a life for themselves. But as in most societies where there are strict rules and conflicting personalities tension is created. Rivalry forms between the older generations and factions begin to form.
Caught in the middle of this you have a group of young women stifled by rules and expectations seeking an outlet, this comes in the form of Tituba a slave where magic in her culture is celebrated. What starts off as harmless fun dancing in the woods around a fire and wishing for handsome young men to sweep them off their feet soon turns to darker desires driven by their own personal agendas. The leader of the group is Abigail Williams, recently spurned by love and fired by her employer she wishes a curse upon a rival. After her uncle catches them in the woods that night and the youngest of the girl’s suddenly collapse she has to think quickly and takes selfish steps to point the blame on others, this sparks the first rumors of witchcraft and soon mass hysteria kicks in as neighbors begin to turn against each other. Corruption seeps into every crack in the community and events spiral out of control, within a few months’ hundreds of people are accused of witchcraft and the girls find themselves in too deep with tragic consequences.
Mary Warren is played by Heather Reynolds and is brand new to PTC. When she walked into the auditions she just blew us away. “The Crucible is one of my favorite plays and I’m thrilled to be given the chance to play Mary Warren who works for the Proctors and is friends with Abigail and the other girls.” As a character Mary is a shy, quiet girl who becomes a victim of peer pressure. Ultimately she struggles with a moral dilemma and conflicting forces pulling her in two directions. She can either tell the truth and risk her friends turning against her or lie and risk losing her job. She has to decide whether her loyalties are with Abigail and the other girls or with the Proctors, either choice will have its consequences. Heather is very excited and grateful to be able to play the character.
Abigail Williams, played by Marina Kyriacou is quite the opposite to Mary. She has no fear of consequences and is driven purely by her own desires. Everything she does is carefully calculated. She’s an expert manipulator and has the power to control everyone around her. Abigail is an interesting character in that she sees herself as a grown up and is treated like an adult; but she’s still very much a child when she doesn’t get her way. “I’ve never played anyone like her.” Abigail very much plays on the climate of that era and how much fear really drives people and uses that fear to her full advantage. “So far it’s been a great experience with an amazing cast and I can’t wait to see it all put together.” Marina has a lot of experience within theatre and is a member of groups such as NAPA where she’s starred in productions like Macbeth and is also a member of the actors workshop.
John Proctor is played by Rob Goll “A man will not cast away his good name,” says John Proctor, having just made public his dark secret. A secret which has inwardly tormented him. “The crucible of his soul in turmoil melts in the hot fire of his conscience!” As the main Protagonist of the story Proctor feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. Believing that he is a sinner in the eyes of his God, he still strives to be a good man. This character I believe goes through the most dramatic changes within the story as tough decisions are asked of him from Spiritual salvation to worldly gain, Love, forgiveness, redemption, duty, obedience, integrity… it’s no wonder it can be an emotionally draining part to play and why there are very few actors within theatre with the stomach for it. “As an actor who relishes in the challenge of characters whose very souls undergo a turbulent change under the scrutiny of the audience – I have to say, what’s not to love!” Rob is very well known in Nottingham and is more than capable of the challenge and from his very first audition he has delivered powerful and moving performances, both terrifying the audience and breaking their hearts.
John’s wife Elizabeth is played by Emma Carlton. Elizabeth is a very pious woman with an unwavering moral compass but she also feels like the poor rabbit referred to in the play that wanders blindly into the house and ends up in the cooking pot. When we meet her she’s very isolated, not just from her husband but the rest of the community as well. Throughout the play we see her and John trying to find their way back to the relationship they once had. “I love having the opportunity to play a complex and interesting character such as Elizabeth and I’m enjoying discovering more about her and her relationship with John.” During the story she goes on a journey of self-discovery and finally ends up opens up to John and speaking her mind. “This is all reflected in the kisses they share. One at the start frosty and rejected and then at the end one filled with love and tenderness it’s so tragic but I love it.” Emma was another person who came into the audition and took our breath away with one of the most moving performances I’ve seen. The emotion she brought to the role and the chemistry she had with Rob confirmed her casting for the role.
PTC’s newly elected chairperson Chris Collins is going to be playing Rev. Hale, a young a minister whose called to Salem by Rev. Parris (whose daughter was one of the girls that collapsed) to investigate the possibility of witchcraft. Since joining PTC Chris has taken part in several of our more challenging productions from a happy go lucky servant to a young man trying to find his place in the world and now an ordained minister desperate to root out evil. In the play no character is spared from the furnace and Rev. Hale like John Proctor goes through a big transformation. “The play itself is like one great crescendo made up of several smaller crescendos. Hale is a challenging, exhausting character and is just one part of an exhilarating play.” As well as being a fantastic actor Chris has taken control of the PTC ship, steered her away from murky waters and will now take us smoothly to the end of the year and beyond.
Rev. Parris is played by Malcolm Todd. Everybody’s heard of John Proctor. Fewer of his nemesis, the Rev. Parris. As a character, Parris is weak and vain but highly ambitious. He resents Proctor’s strength and popularity and fears the loss of his position. “His motives are human and pitiable. Parris is always teetering on the edge of losing control: sometimes bombastic, sometimes shrill, sometimes a picture of abject hand-wringing terror.” As a character he ca be very erratic but when you think about what a dangerous and unforgiving world he lives in it is possible to feel some compassion for him in his weakness. Throughout rehearsals Malcolm has portrayed this character well. He’s give him some depth and humanity. Miller’s language is wonderful, a twist and a slip away from modern English, easily understood but bearing the music of a different era. “It’s an honor and a joy to play opposite such a tremendous cast, some of whom I have known and acted with before, some I have admired on stage and some I’m just now getting the opportunity to know.” One of the strongest people who auditioned for The Crucible Malcom is very well known at the Lacemarket and has the strength and talent to work with our John Proctor. The two work well together, showing depth to their rivalry and bounce off each other nicely.
In addition to these actors we have a huge collective of talent from all over the city. You can see our own Robbie Robb as Giles Corey, Adam Chapman as Judge Hathorne and Barbara Benner as Sarah Good. Roy Smith returns to the Arts Theatre again this time as Marshal Willard and Gill Cook plays Rebecca Nurse. Lacemarket’s Nick Parvin takes on the role of Ezekiel Cheever & Glenn Murphy is Francis Nurse. Rob Suttle takes on the strong presence that is Judge Danforth and local drag artist John Gill loses the dress and dons a suit to play the wealthy Thomas Putnam with BMTCs Lindsey Parr as his wife Ann. Vicki Reckless, Hatty Holloway and Abby Henderson also join the cast as members of Abigail’s gang and voice actor Sarah “Fuzzy” Astil is our Tituba. This will be a show to remember, all of the cast bring something unique to their roles and the amount of effort they’ve put in has definitely paid off. We are now full steam ahead for the next month, going up to rehearsals three times a week with full acts being run in preparation for an explosive and emotional show with so many powerful performances. The standard is really high and I suggest you book tickets to come and see this fantastic production before it’s too late.
Book online at: www.nottingham-theatre.co.uk/whats-on.html or call the box office on 0115 947 6096
Jessica McLean, Deputy Chair