Image Credit: West Yorkshire Playhouse
The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is currently playing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and directed by James Brining. The play is adapted from the Salem witchcraft trials in the late 17th Century. The production doesn't tell this story literally but Miller used the witchcraft trails as a metaphoric subject in the case of Joseph McCarthy's persecution of those who were Communists and those who were sympathetic to it in the United States during the1950s.
The play unfolds how fear of witchcraft created paranoia from those in power such as the state and religion at the time. The incredible set, designed by Colin Richmond, includes the settings of the church and courtroom, which demonstrates the power of religion and politics had over the community.
It's synonymous in the 1950s and today how fears and threats are manipulated by those, whose complex beliefs and prejudices, influences their condemnation to those who are against their decisions and policies, or who they see as a threat. The tortuous condemnation by Reverend John Hale, a witchcraft expert (played by Daniel Poyser), to Tituba, a slave servant (played by Lynette Clarke) demonstrates how religion then played a pivotal role in the view of witchcraft in the 1690s.
The Crucible is not just explores the internal despotism within a community; there is the love triangle of Elizabeth Proctor (played by Susie Trayling), John Proctor (played by Martin Marquez) and Abigail Williams (played by Kate Phillips). The love triangle triggers the play's themes and fuels the bigger picture of how the witchcraft allegations are influenced to the reigning powers through personal vendettas in the community.
Neutrality isn't encouraged. The society's culture is set as such that one is either for or against. This is evident in Act 4 where Deputy Governor Danforth (played by Joseph Mydell) who has to rely on 'good faith' deciding the defendants' verdicts and questioning the evidence further was not an option. He reiterates that either one is with the court, or he be counted against it. Thus he is more concerned about his powerful reputation than consciously examining the evidence.
So parallel today in that the balance of governance and individual needs is difficult or impossibly pursued depending on one's view point. The compromises of the Government and personal liberties are so much at stake especially when fears and threat arises whether nationally or internationally. Either way this has a profound effect on society whether one is in power or the ordinary individual.
As Brining discussed, The Crucible explores how each individual human being is unique with their inherent flaws. The system or institution is not equipped to accommodate one's flawed personality. Conforming is not an option as ignorance and fear prevails but not necessarily a good one. In an ideal world our uniqueness should be nurtured and be accepted that one and all with their personalities can live together in harmony. Probably explains why mental health and emotional well being is so topical today and how much these link to these situations. The Crucible encourages one and all to look at things in perspective and provoke thinking and discussion.
The Crucible is an intense fueled, conscience triggering, thought provoking and intriguing play. This production examines how all the characters are victims of circumstances directly or indirectly in society. This production is highly recommended and running until 25th October 2014.