The Crucible – reviews of 'unmissable' Old Vic revival

Jul 8, 2014

Critics mesmerised by Arthur Miller's classic parable of paranoia starring Richard Armitage

Johan Persson
What you need to know

A revival of Arthur Miller's The Crucible starring Richard Armitage has opened at the Old Vic, London. South African Yael Farber (Mies Julie) directs this production of Miller's fictionalised account of the 1692 Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, which he intended as a metaphor for the McCarthy-era persecution of suspected communists.

Set in a small town rife with gossip and grievances, it follows the story of John Proctor, whose affair with his servant Abigail sets in motion a cycle of revenge and accusations of witchcraft, that will tear apart the fragile community with deadly consequences.

Armitage (from The Hobbit trilogy) stars as John Proctor. Runs until 13 September.

What the critics like

Arthur Miller's great play "has never mesmerised and moved me quite like Yael Farber's revival", says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. This historical masterpiece feels entirely present-tense, making us feel not so much that we are watching the play but that we are part of it.

Though once about McCarthyism, this superb play now seems to suggest the dangers of religious fundamentalism, says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. Here it "achieves the intensity of a thriller", with an exhilarating performance from Armitage, in a production of electrifying intensity.

Farber's extraordinary production "preserves the integrity of Miller's language while investing the action with a raw, visceral power", says Michael Billington in The Guardian. It's a tremendous production of a play that retains its disturbing relevance.

What they don't like

Critics are united in their praise for Farber's production, and though The Independent's Paul Taylor says The Crucible "unfolds with the sick dread of a horrible dream from which you are powerless to awake", he adds that it is nevertheless "unmissable".

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