I often hear – within the ‘theatre critic’ clique of course – that this play, by playwright legend Arthur Miller, is one of the first points of entry into the world of theatre. More blasphemous than the entire women of Salem is the fact that I had managed to avoid a viewing of this epic play until now. Thankfully director Cal Lewis and his team manage to stage a neat, and at points emotionally heightened production.
The play takes place during the infamous Salem witch trials and develops parallels between these events and those happening in America during the 1950s when the government blacklisted accused communists under McCarthy. Both were particularly tense periods when people where quick to act on their fear and hysteria, a theme we can still relate to today.
Featuring a large cast of 18, it is a nice surprise to see the somewhat small stage at the New Theatre looking uncluttered throughout most of the play, even during crowded scenes. The set design matches this aesthetic, and is simple and clean, and does not detract from the dramatic scenes on stage.
The cast did a superb job, but special mention should go to Tom Pinny as the lead character John Proctor. He was especially convincing in his role as a condemned man accused of practicing witchcraft. Another performance worth noting was Simon Holton as the Reverend John Hale. His performance struck a perfect balance between soft and forceful and never overwhelmed the stage.
I would recommend everyone to see this play, it is a great to introduction to one of the twentieth century’s great playwrights.