The Crucible at The Yard Theatre
The Yard’s Artistic Director Jay Miller directs this incongruous, tonally confused production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, telling the story of the Salem witch hunts in 1692.
Act One opens with our nine actors sitting in chairs, narrating descriptive text. Each chair is marked with a townsperson’s name: actors voice the character whose chair they occupy, at times moving to sit elsewhere and embody a new voice. The effect is one of discord. In this who’s who of awkwardly choreographed exposition we lose track of characters – actors transmute before we have a chance to form connections. In a production where lies and truth are indistinguishable, so here are identities. So it’s with relief that Act Two comes and we enter the Proctors’ family home.
John and Elizabeth “Goody” Proctor (played by Caoilfhionn Dunne and Emma D’Arcy respectively) are the show’s anchors. Dunne is forceful in her portrayal of John Proctor, a farmer whose wife is (one of many) accused of witchcraft. For her part, D’Arcy is riveting. The complexity of thought she transmits in each minute facial movement extends beyond what we’ve come to expect from normal human expression. Her face is a canvas, at once painted with acute realism from within by a mind in full mastery of empathy and beheld from without by her audience, transfixed. Ever searching, never still and heartachingly human. She is the partner whose heart you’ve broken. She is the mother desperate to protect her children. And she is, unequivocally, Goody Proctor.
Apart from the script, acting is this production’s solitary strength – and, despite this review’s rating, the show is easily worth seeing for this alone. The rest of the cast holds up to the Proctors’ high calibre; however, inexplicable set and direction choices undermine them. As the judge, Jacob James Beswick – notable for the severity of his Malkovich-like intonation – sits atop three stacked chairs, feet dangling like a child’s in a high chair. What place is this for a judge? Yellow and pink lighting on purple carpets evokes a children’s “fun zone”, while a 50-inch TV lazily blurts details that with some inspiration could be artfully conveyed. But perhaps most deplorably, smoke is used in excess – to the point it becomes physically hard to swallow. Note to production: The Yard is small; please don’t suffocate your audience and actors. Think about anyone with respiratory problems, or anyone wearing contacts. And maybe put a warning on your TV?
Images: Helen Murray
The Crucible is at The Yard Theatre from 27th March until 11th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.