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Theatre Review: The Crucible ***

Joy Watters reviews Pitlochry Festival Theatre's production of the classic Arthur Miller play.

The lights go up on the stage to reveal a scaled-down version of nearby landmark spanning the Tummel, the Shoogly Bridge. It is the backdrop for Arthur Miller’s masterpiece about the 17thcentury Massachusetts witch trials because artistic director Elizabeth Newman takes the view that the similarities between `Miller’s metaphorical world of 1692 Salem and Pitlochry are profound.’

Miller wrote it in 1953, using the real life events in the English Puritan colony as an allegory for the anti-Communist witch-hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy. The village of Salem is brought to its knees by false accusation, rumour and paranoia as the young girls claim their elders are witches.

Tittle tattle becomes proven testimony and the innocent are condemned. From dancing in the woods, it escalates into a literal witch hunt. No-one is safe from accusation.

This is a big production using all seventeen members of the ensemble and gives them something to really test their mettle.

Young Abigail Williams (Fiona Wood) orchestrates her peers before and during the trial. She is hell bent on taking revenge on her former lover, married farmer John Proctor. Wood perfectly captures the child-woman, begging and threatening by turns.

Claire Dargo as his wronged wife captures the dignity, the anger and the empathy of Elizabeth Proctor. Sensitively timed and delivered, Dargo’s performance is outstanding.

Deirdre Davis brings the discipline and self-assurance of governor Danforth, who presides over the trial, sharply into focus.

Newman’s handling of the conclusion of the play is somewhat misjudged. Not content with letting the terrible human tragedy speak for itself as two nooses hang ready, she fills the stage with flames and then lets a torrent of water fall from above.

Runs until 27 September.

Tags: theatre

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