7 July 2023

Th Crucible at The Gielgud Theatre: numbing not electrifying

Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ is one of those classics on my list of never read or seen. It was on the curriculum at school but not for my stream. I know the basic story, being as it’s based in fact, about the Salem witch trials, which Miller used to make a point about MacCarthyism. I hadn’t even seen the two movies made. So I bought a ticket.

You may have read on here that I don’t like to find out too much about something before I go and experience it for myself. I had seen short promos online and headings to reviews in the press praising the way the show was staged and how the whole thing was a magnificent revival, or perfect as shown here on the Gielgud’s site. A word repeated used to describe it, used far too often which suggests a copy and paste job, was/is ‘electrifying’

Dear reader, it is soporific. It numbed me. I think I dozed off a couple of times!  Everyone speaks at the same tone to the same beat with no break or pauses like a metronome hence the hypnotic rather than stimulating effect. It certainly didn’t give me sense of dread or foreboding as I later found out it was meant to do. 

Having subsequently read a synopsis of the play, I realise many poignant things that were said on stage were missed by me completely. I hadn’t grasped who was related to whom, who had done what when or who most of the characters were. Seems to me that this is a performance for people who have studied the play who are already in the know. Which was evident here and there when audience members laughed (laughed?) in that in-the-know way they do to prove how brilliant they are, whereas I was sat there questioning what had been said. Many of these loud chucklers looked to be young students who I guess are studying the play at the moment  

I did like the look of it though. The rain effect, the costumes, the moodiness, the way people appeared like ghosts from the rear of the stage. But I also noted that the positioning of actors on the stage was often too equally spaced in the same way they that had been directed to deliver their lines - I’ll speak then you speak and he will speak then she will speak, all in the same tempo and in strange Bostonian(?) accents. Actually, here’s a thought… had that or any US regional accent set in by that time period? Surely these early settlers had all come from various places inc England and Europe and would not have yet had a common accent..?

Anyway. I sat for five mins of the interval and wondered whether to stick it out. I pondered how I’d seen quite a few people leave already during the performance. Perhaps 18 people of varying ages. I wondered if the second half would bring it all together for me. I Googled a synopsis and realised there was too much I hadn’t already understood and so I too left to read it properly on the bus home. I later looked up reviews of this show, a few of which also said they found it strangely paced and relentless as regards the dialogue. 

A shame. Disappointed. Numbed not electrified.

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Thanks, Jane