THE CRUCIBLE carries one of the themes that Arthur Miller would come back to again and again during his long career. If a man’s life becomes too compromised, if he is no longer able to look himself in the eye, then his life is no longer worth living. Quite literally, in a few of Miller’s plays the main character takes his own life.
The UTS Backstage Theatre Society has aimed high taking on one of the world’s greatest dramas. The good news is that the Society has come up with a strong production, and one that many theatre companies would be proud of.
Jake Bayssari’s direction, with the aid of Assistant Director Annaliese Shaw, had good vision and was assured and incisive. His staging, working within the bounds of Bon Marche Studio’s small stage, worked well. All the play’s big scenes, and there are many in THE CRUCIBLE, were played well, and with rawness and vitality.
The production had some lovely quirky touches. There was a little alcove (room) to the left as we approached the theatre. From what I could work out, inside there was a hangman preparing nooses for the next series of hangings.
When interval came, with John Proctor and his housemaid Mary Warren preparing to face the inquisition, the house lights came up and a stage hand told the audience, ‘There will now be a fifteen minute interval. Get thee to do some hard praying.’
Charles Waldren’s edgy soundscape – mostly percussion based – responded to the action well, as did Nick Madunic’s sharp lighting design. Maddie Johnstone’s period costumes were subtle and effective.
Set changes were carried out under black out and were mostly performed quickly. The longest set change took place in setting up John Proctor’s living room which was cleverly detailed, including a make believe log fire – with appropriate licking flames side effects, and a sideboard which also doubled up, on top, as a kitchen basin.
The performances were all solid. Some of the actresses were called upon to play male roles – for whatever the reason – and they did so very effectively. Most notably, Sharanya Napier Ryan who was decidedly convincing as the haughty, uncompromising Deputy Danforth.
Sam Allen made for a proud, defiant John Proctor. Allen and Gabrielle Stapleton as Elizabeth Proctor, poignantly played out their dramatic final scene together.
Emma Wiltshire was suitably creepy, manipulative and narcissistic as John Proctor’s nemesis, Abigail.
Will Hall impressed as the conservative, steadfast Reverend Paris who made his first appearance at the end of the play’s first scene, after the girls had been manically dancing.
Vanessa Papastavros gave a compelling performance as the Proctors very vulnerable housemaid Mary Warren who gets hoodwinked by Abigail and her cohorts.
Abeba James added an exotic quality to the production as Tituba, the girl from Barbados.
That final scene, when John Proctor tears up his fake confession and exclaims, ‘I have my name’, knowing that certain hanging awaits him, still, and always will, ‘get’ me.
Congratulations to the UTS Backstage Theatre Society for putting on such a fine production. And it was great to see the show being enjoyed by a full house!
THE CRUCIBLE is playing the Bon March studio, Level One, Building 3, 755 Harris Street, University of Technology, Broadway until the 9th July with performances at 7pm.