Adding to the delightful account of their outing by NellieHarrod, Whatcatydidnext gets to the meat of the trip.
OK, your read the tale of two country mice up in the big city to see the sights…
Now for the serious stuff.
The Old Vic is quite a puzzle from the outside, ‘spot the architectural changes’ is one of our favourite games, and this theatre has a ton of bit’s that don’t fit, blocked in exits and entrances, mismatched aprons, an assortment of casement, sash and hopper windows.
Trying to guess what was done when, and why, nicely took up the time waiting to see if ‘himself’ would appear.
Our seats were on the curve of the dress circle, front row. Giving a very good view of the proceedings, and a nice bit of leanage too.
Looking down at the front seating in the stalls was an eye opener. I think I would have felt rather as if I were intruding if I were down there.
The production was stark, the set, almost not a set, just church chairs, a bed and a series of tables, all were moved casually, but in a practically balletic fashion by the cast. To be honest the whole performance had that quality about it, as if everyone moved to a beat. The child who played Betty Parris (Marama Corlett) held a position on the bed when her character was fitting, that I still find painful to think about. The characters twist and turns, were executed with economic elegance.
It begins with Tituba (Sarah Niles) humming hypnotically, drifting, across and around the stage area, settling the dark feelings of repression and judgement on us from the outset.
These are not people who seem to enjoy much about life. They work hard, existing in conditions we can only build inside our heads. The girls dancing seems to us to be normal, obvious, but it’s a horror to the grown men and women of Salem. Conjuring devils is only a slither away from their everyday thoughts, the only joyfulness is in God’s forgiveness, and what precious little there is of that is only validated by the approval of their neighbours.
Watching John Proctor’s guilt and shame build is sad, but he is responsible for his own actions. It isn’t, as the play seems to insist, the fault of the evil Abigail Williams. She’s what 18? He’s a grown man with a wife and three children, a good man, it’s insisted. But he still did a bad thing, he wasn’t drunk, or seduced by a knowing harlot. He lusted after a young girl, who, with a teenagers arrogance, thought he might mean it. When you see her face as the power she now has registers in her own head, at that moment she is vile. As vile as any who think to try and steal love.
But what strikes you most is John Hale. He comes to help, to use reason and prayer to set things right. Seeing his beliefs shattered, ground to dust before him, is as heart wrenching as Proctor losing the fight to be a ‘good man’. It’s John Hale who is changed, who, in the end see’s all the judges legal and religious hypocrisy for what it is, and worse still, knows he cannot mend it.
I think the worst point for me was the realisation that the end would come, not because the truth would, at last, be seen, as the reverend Hale saw it, but because of ownerless cows and parentless children roaming the streets, the fields stinking with rotten crops, the bad smell, the inconvenient mess, not the relentless murdering of innocents.
For those who want to know about Richard Armitage’s performance, he’s a big man on stage. His voice is hoarse, I assume because a lot of his lines are barked, I think to confirm the fierce strength of the man, by contrast his tone with Elizabeth is softer, apologetic. He is an actor of serious merit, not just a pretty action hero. Surrounded as he was by a company of equals, I think he showed that.
This is a beautifully involving and evocative production.
Kip Note: And Again, a Happy Birthday to Whatcatydidnext, you classy broad! Hope it was a wonderful day and many happy returns.
Also, having read both audience and journalistic reviews, congratulations to the cast and crew of The Crucible. It sounds like you all have done an amazing job!