In the Farrer Theatre this week, audiences were taken back to the spring of 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, the stage for this year’s Michaelmas School Play. 'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller, directed by Marco Liviero, was written as a powerful allegory for McCarthyism in 1950s America. It is a thrilling journey, where neighbour turns on neighbour, and no one is safe.
The play starts with Reverend Parris (Ollie Taylor, JMG) interrogating his niece Abigail Williams (Lorenzo Harvey Allchurch, HWTA) on what exactly she and her friends were doing in the forest at the dead of night. As rumours of witchcraft swirl about, Reverend Hale (Robbie Owen, Coll) is called from a neighbouring town to get to the truth. As Abigail and her friends, Betty Parris, Susanna Walcott, Mercy Lewis, and Mary Warren (Theo Peters, SPH, Andrew Appel, SPH, Carlo Guerrini-Maraldi, JCAJ, and Zac Mee, JRBS) fool the town into thinking witches are about, they accuse the men and women of Salem in the court formed by Judge Hathorne and Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth (Adrien Rolet, DWG, and Will Leckie, JD) and condemn them to hang. When John Proctor’s (Michael Olatunji, PAH) wife Elizabeth (Calum Baker, JMG) is accused, and his previous affair with Abigail is on the verge of coming out to the rest of the town, he takes it upon himself to try and dispel the mass hysteria that has entrapped Salem.
Michael Olatunji’s portrayal of John Proctor was a truly layered performance, from tender moments with his wife, to tensions running high in the courthouse. He expressively conveyed the difficulty of Proctor’s situation and the courage to reconcile and try and do the right thing. Calum Baker’s Elizabeth Proctor was a passionate performance showing the hardships she overcame in forgiving her husband and at the end declaring that he was a good man. Lorenzo Harvey Allchurch gave a provocative portrayal of Abigail Williams, captivatingly showing her manipulative side as she wrapped the town around her finger and Zac Mee’s Mary Warren was intense showing her inner conflict as she came clean and told the court of her lies, only to be accused herself as her friends turned on her and acted as if she was bewitching them. And as the events unfolded, Deputy Governor Danforth’s iron justice, strikingly portrayed by Will Leckie, showed us that no matter the details, it all comes down to whether you are innocent, or guilty.
Of course, credit must be given to Dr Liviero, whose expertise resulted in an electrifying production, to the Farrer Theatre crew for designing such a breath-taking set, creative lighting design and a sound design that enhanced the play’s most dramatic moments, and most of all to the entire cast, who together produced a truly captivating and emotive show.