The Crucible at the New Alex Theatre – Powerful and Brilliant

The 1950s were strange times in America. The Second World War was over, but a Cold War emerged, and with it an aura of paranoia and hysteria that saw the country turning on itself, trying to weed out anyone who was a Communist, and therefore, un-American. Senator Joe McCarthy started his witch-hunts, which saw innocent people jailed, destroyed, their lives ruined by (often) false accusations, with people encouraged to name names. It was against this backdrop that America’s celebrated playwright Arthur Miller wrote his masterpiece ‘The Crucible’. a savage indictment of the modern day witch hunts played out through the Salem Witch hunts of the 17th Century. Last night, the play showed it had lost non of its power to shock when it opened at The New Alex Theatre.

Crucible-company-®Alessia-Chinazzo

In Salem, the teenage girls have started to act strangely, dancing naked in the woods in the dead of night, and falling into cataclysmic trances. The suspicious townsfolk, led by the sanctimonious but corrupt Reverend Parris (Cornelius Clarke), suspect witchcraft, with Parris worried for his reputation, as his niece Abigail(Lucy Keirl) seems to be at the core of the activity. Other townsfolk suspect nothing more than hysteria, with one, John Proctor (Eoin Slattery), fearing this is vengeance for his rejection of Abigail. Another priest, Reverend Hale (Charlie Condou) is called to the town to give his opinion, but soon the town jails are filled with men and women accused of witchcraft by the increasingly powerful girls. With the arrival of Judge Canforth (Jonathan Tafler), and the sinister arrest of Elizabeth Proctor (Victoria Yeates) and Rebecca Nurse (Augustina Seymour), events in the town of Salem descend into hell, anyone can be accused, and telling the truth may well lead to death.

Charlie Condou as Reverand Hale_Cornelius Clarke as Reverend Parris_Leona Allen as Betty Parris -®Alessia Chinazzo

This is a powerful piece of theatre which plays with your mind and lingers long after the curtain falls. Information about characters is flashed onto the stage backdrop in  a way that calls to mind Silent movies, perhaps a reminder of the Hollywood 10, destroyed by the McCarthy Witch hunts. Some of the cast are in period costume, others of suits and clothing more suited to the 1950s – again reminding us that this story from the past still has relevance in our more recent times.

The performances are excellent throughout the whole cast and show the mixture of emotions that run through the piece. John Proctor, as played by Eoin Slattery, is passionate and angry, even in the early scenes he is shown to be a man frustrated by the avarice of the church represented by Reverend Parris, and tormented by his attraction to Abigail. As his wife, Victoria Yeates is his polar opposite, her calm and dignity almost heartbreaking as she faces the accusations made against her.

Charlie Condou as Rev.Hale_ Eoin Slattery as John Proctor_Victoria Yeates as Elizabeth Proctor -®Alessia Chinazzo

Lucy Keirl is wonderfully evil as Abigail, showing no remorse as her words and actions condemn innocent men and women. Her ‘bewitching; is a tour de force in over the top histrionics – it would be funny if the consequences were not so devastating. Charlie Condou plays the role of the tortured Reverend Hale beautifully, his pain as he realises that the cases are built on lies and that good, innocent people are being killed is so real. Finally, Judge Danforth, as played by Jonathan Tafler, is an infuriating megalomaniac who cannot be wrong, nor made to see sense. It is a commanding performance that dominates the stage, sinister and yet measured in the playing.

The Crucible is an extraordinary piece of theatre that has so many echoes in our modern times. The final moments are as powerful and haunting as anything you will watch, and will remain with you long after you leave the theatre.

A must see.

The Crucible

New Alexandra Theatre

Tuesday 6- Saturday 10th June

Click here for ticket information

 

Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold

Maybe it was because she was a woman, but Eve Arnold never felt the need to over sexualise Marilyn Monroe like some of the studio photographers did. In her photographs, many taken on the set of The Misfits, Marilyn is an earthy presence, beautiful and natural, a captivating woman with undeniable vulnerability.

I first became a fan of Eve’s work in my late teens. A huge fan of Marilyn since childhood, the name Marilyn Monroe evoked images of a glorious goddess in gold lame, or standing over a subway vent as her skirt lifted around her head, a fantasy figure who was somewhat over-worldly. Then I discovered that an exhibition of photographs by Eve Arnold was coming to the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, and that she had photographed Marilyn, so I set off to see it. I was astounded by the beauty of the photographs I saw, the new Marilyn revealed to me. For whilst the early photographs by Eve, taken in 1954, included Marilyn wearing leopard print in the bulrushes, the later images revealed Marilyn as a flesh and blood woman with flyaway hair and flaws.

This was a slightly fleshier Marilyn than the goddess of The Seven Year Itch,  making a film written by her husband Arthur Miller that showed the disintegration of their marriage, a marriage that would end with the filming. A pack of Magnum photographer’s accompanied the filming, including Henri Cartier Bresson, and Arthur Miller’s third wife, Inge Morath. But it is Eve who captured her subject best, casual in jeans and chunky knits, still beautiful, but older and wiser than the girl who posed in the bulrushes.

Eve Arnold died this week at the age of 99. A true legend in times when the word is bandied around, her work will ensure that she lives on forever, a giant in the world of photography.

Further Reading

Marilyn Monroe: An Appreciation [Hardcover

The Misfits: Story of a Shoot [Paperback

Eve Arnold’s People [Hardcover