THE CRUCIBLE by ARTHUR MILLER is The Royal Lyceum of Edinburgh’s flagship production to mark its 50th year. Royal Lyceum audiences have a long and mostly satisfactory relationship with Arthur Miller and this production of the Crucible will have enhanced that immeasurably.

The Crucible is a play ostensibly about witchcraft, but actually about so much that troubles any thinking person over the human condition. Religious fervour, superstition, greed, scapegoating, love, betrayal, the rule of law and the misrule of law. So much more is packed into the fabric of this work that further inklings strike one unawares.

It’s very difficult to single out individual performances, but the central love affair played out by Irene Allen and Philip Cairns as Elizabeth and John Proctor has not been bettered in my opinion. (Well, I haven’t seen it quite as often as Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it is around a lot…) Their quiet despair over where the love and trust went and why, is tangible and there can hardly have been a dry female eye in the house at the final scene.

John Dove asks a huge amount from his cast and they respond. The performances are all understated or hysterical as required by the script. The group of girls swayed by the unaccustomed attention to their views, is a terrible thing to watch. How easy it is for mass hysteria, at the time unrecognised, to influence otherwise hard-working and God-fearing (in the best sense) people. Danforth, the Deputy Governor, is unmoved by the obvious breakdown of social order caused by his lunatic questioning and blind adherence to the rigidity of words once uttered. How often do we see this polarisation between head and heart today? The cost remains high.

Run continues till 19th March, catch it!

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