Critics enjoy Richard Armitage in 'thrilling' production of The Crucible
Yael Farber's production of Arthur Miller's classic was well received, despite its three and a half hour running time
…Yaël Farber's strident and mostly gripping production starts slowly and ritualistically… John Proctor, played with gallant good looks and some physical power by Richard Armitage… Tim Lutkin's lighting sculpts it in startling silhouette. But Armitage's hoarseness - he strains against his own vocal chords - becomes increasingly monotonous… Soon, everyone's shouting their heads off as if their lives depended on it; this proves a poor way of counter-balancing the rigid, almost hierarchical staging of the comings and goings through the circular arena, where some artful scene changes in Soutra Gilmour's design slow down the evening (well over three-and-a-half hours long) even more… It's a very strong evening, especially in the tragic renewal of the Proctors' marriage. But a lot of the noise is too hollow to hurt, too blustery to burn.
…In her thrilling production at the Old Vic, which lasts three and a half hours but never loosens its dramatic grip… The drama is staged with a mixture of simplicity and dramatic power that builds up an ominous feeling of dread and fear. As a result this harrowing play achieves the intensity of a thriller… Richard Hammarton's foreboding sound score, with its electronic growls and rumbles, ratchets up the tension like a horror movie. There is nothing flashy about the staging, which has a stark simplicity… One of the strongest features of the production is the performances of the teenage girls… Richard Armitage proves an exhilarating stage actor, with blazing eyes and a righteous fury about him… even the smallest roles come to full-blooded life in a production of electrifying intensity.
I've seen Arthur Miller's great play many times before, but it has never mesmerised and moved me quite like Yaël Farber's revival manages to do here… There are droning sounds, dim lighting, plenty of smoke. The mood is unrelenting, properly Puritan, initially rather testing. It's grim up North America… from then on this Crucible gets ever more intimate and intense and insinuating. Yes, it's long, at three and a half hours… Armitage leads with passion as Proctor: it's big acting, but Farber gives him the context for it… There is fine support too from Colley as Abigail; from Natalie Gavin as the Proctors' maid, Mary, and William Gaunt as an endearing Giles Corey. The entire ensemble of 24 ensures that Miller's historical masterpiece feels entirely present-tense.
Productions of Arthur Miller's re-creation of the Salem witch hunt tend to be as flinty and hard-edged as the author's prose. But the South African Yaël Farber… has come up with an extraordinary production that preserves the integrity of Miller's language while investing the action with a raw, visceral power I've never witnessed… Not even Farber can disguise the rhetorical melodrama of the final act. But everything about this production is of a piece, from the distressed walls of Soutra Gilmour's set to the subliminal creepiness of Richard Hammarton's music and sound. Richard Armitage, though sounding a bit vocally strained, admirably conveys Proctor's mix of muscularity and guilt and Anna Madeley is excellent as his quietly accusatory wife… It's a tremendous production…
…It is a necessarily claustrophobic story, never easy to watch. You do not go to The Crucible for enjoyment — certainly not here, where director Yael Farber's time-keeping has run out of control… The glacial pace of her direction may create an oppressive atmosphere but it goes far beyond self-indulgence… But what a hunk Mr Armitage is. Proctor's first entrance is greatly powered by this actor's physical magnificence. He smoulders more than any campfire and projects a palpable earnestness which sits well with his character… Miss Colley is suitably bewitching — her eyes blaze with astonishing zeal — and the Old Vic has assembled a rich cast… Much shouting and shrieking ensues, much of it inaudible… At times, the show descends into overblown, shouty portentousness…